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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, April 3rd (All times Eastern)
Boston Bruins (52-18-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-8), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - With a costly eight-game losing streak finally snapped, the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to build some much-needed momentum when they host the Boston Bruins in Thursday's battle at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs did serious damage to their postseason chances during an 0-8-0 slide from March 16-29, but Toronto was able to record its first win since March 13 in its last trip to the ice, notching a 3-2 victory over visiting Calgary on Tuesday.
Toronto enters Thursday's action one point out of the last playoff spot in the East, which Columbus currently holds with 83 points. The Blue Jackets, who hold two games in hand over the Leafs, play Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Detroit is two points in front of Toronto for the conference's first wild card spot. The Red Wings also own two games in hand over the Leafs, but are idle on Thursday.
Boston, meanwhile, has already clinched the Atlantic Division title and is close to wrapping up the East's top seed. With 110 points, the Bruins are nine points ahead of Pittsburgh for the regular-season conference crown. Both clubs have six games left and the Penguins are playing Thursday evening in Winnipeg.
Boston is also one point in front of St. Louis for the NHL lead. The Blues own a game in hand over the Bruins and host Buffalo on Thursday.
In addition to losing a heartbreaking seven-game series against the Bruins in last season's playoffs, Toronto has lost 11 of the past 13 regular-season encounters in this series.
The Leafs were able to halt a three-game slide against Boston by posting a 4-3 regulation win when the clubs last met on Jan. 14 in Beantown. The Bruins have won five of the past six in-season encounters in Toronto.
Toronto halted its lengthy slide with Tuesday's home win over the Flames. The game was tied 1-1 after two periods, but Dave Bolland and David Clarkson scored 3 1/2 minutes apart early in the third to take a two-goal lead.
Jay McClement also lit the lamp to support a 20-save effort from Jonathan Bernier, who helped Toronto end its longest skid since the 2010-11 campaign.
"It's been a long time, too long," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle. "Obviously it's a much better feeling than any we've enjoyed over the past couple of weeks here."
Toronto is playing its penultimate home game of the regular season on Thursday. The Leafs, who are 23-15-1 as the host, will complete a four-game homestand Saturday against Winnipeg before closing their schedule on a three- game road trip. The swing begins Tuesday in Tampa Bay and also will feature stops at Florida and Ottawa.
The Bruins hope to rebound Thursday after losing their first regulation game in a month, dropping a 3-2 decision in Detroit on Wednesday. Boston held a 2-1 lead early in the third period, but Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist scored goals 1:42 apart in the latter stages of the third period to lift the Red Wings to the close win.
It was just the second loss in 16 games for Boston and the club's first setback in regulation since a 4-2 home loss versus Washington on March 1.
The Bruins also had a club-record road winning streak halted at nine games. Boston's last loss as the guest came in a 5-4 overtime defeat at Buffalo on Feb. 26. Wednesday's setback in Detroit also was the B's first regulation loss in a road game since a 4-2 setback against Los Angeles on Jan. 9.
Boston is 23-11-3 as the visiting team this season and boasts a 13-1-3 record over its past 17 games as the guest.
Johnny Boychuk and Carl Soderberg tallied on Wednesday for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask stopped only 17 pucks in defeat.
"It sucks. We don't want to lose game. It doesn't matter if you win 20 in a row, a loss is a loss," said Rask. "Especially when you lose in the third period it sucks. We have a new one tomorrow and have to get over this."
The Bruins played the game without forward Jarome Iginla, who was late scratch due to a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight. Iginla leads the team this season with 30 goals and is second behind David Krejci with 61 points.
Boston is completing a four-game road trip tonight before hosting Philadelphia on Saturday.
04/03 10:50:33 ET