Bruins-Maple Leafs Preview

For a slumping Boston Bruins team trying to avoid its first

three-game skid since October, Tuesday night’s MVP may be the

schedule maker.

That’s because the Bruins will get to visit the Toronto Maple

Leafs, whom they’ve defeated in all four meetings this season in

convincing fashion.

Boston (38-23-3) has dropped two straight and three of four

after Sunday’s 4-3 road loss to the New York Rangers, who expanded

their lead to 12 points over the second-seeded Bruins atop the

Eastern Conference.

“We played a pretty good game,” said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas,

who took his second loss in as many days with Tuukka Rask sidelined

by injury. “Right now, what can go wrong, will. It’s one of those

modes.”

Thomas will likely be seeing the lion’s share of the time in net

for the rest of the season after the Bruins announced Monday that

Rask, who left Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, will

miss four to six weeks with a lower abdomen/groin strain.

Boston recalled Michael Hutchinson from Providence of the AHL to

serve as Thomas’ backup and signed Marty Turco to a one-year deal

Monday. If Turco clears waivers, he will join the Bruins on

Wednesday.

David Krejci, Jordan Caron and Benoit Pouliot scored Sunday for

Boston, which outshot the Rangers 33-17 – a performance that had

left wing Milan Lucic looking on the bright side.

“Other than the result, we have a lot to be happy about,” said

Lucic, who has one goal and three assists during a three-game point

streak. “We played a real good game after we called that timeout.

We had everyone going. It was the best effort that we’ve had in a

long time. We need to keep our heads high and remember the things

here that gave the scoring chances and the momentum.”

Lucic has plenty of reason to be upbeat about another matchup

with the Maple Leafs (30-28-7). He has five goals and five assists

in this season’s four meetings, helping the Bruins win all four by

a combined margin of 23-6. Lucic has scored a pair of goals in each

of Boston’s two visits to Air Canada Centre.

This is the first meeting between these Original Six rivals

since a 4-1 home win for the Bruins on Dec. 3, but the Leafs are

playing worse now than they were then. Toronto has gone 2-9-1 over

its last 12 contests while allowing nearly four goals per game, and

has dropped five straight at home since a 6-3 victory over Edmonton

exactly one month ago.

The slump claimed the job of coach Ron Wilson, whom the Maple

Leafs fired Friday and replaced with former Toronto defenseman and

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.

The move looked good in Carlyle’s debut Saturday, as the Leafs

snapped a season-high six-game skid by winning 3-1 at Montreal.

Mikhail Grabovski scored twice in the third period to break open

a tie game and assisted on a goal by Matt Frattin to make the new

coach a winner. Toronto generally dominated the play, outshooting

the Canadiens 42-22.

“It’s obviously a nice way to start,” Carlyle said. “I thought

our team put out an effort. It’s impressive when you can go into

the other team’s building and hold them to under 25 shots and score

two big goals in the third to eke out a win. I asked them to skate

and not worry about anything but what our focus was, which was to

win the game. We stayed with our game plan.”

Toronto leading scorer Phil Kessel, who spent his first three

seasons in Boston from 2006-2009, has just one assist in the season

series against his former club.

The Bruins haven’t dropped three in a row since Oct. 22-29,

their longest skid of the season.