Leafs need to pick up points against Bru­ins, rather than set­tle scores

Fi­nale of sea­son se­ries be­tween likely play­off op­po­nents should be emo­tion­ally charged

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - KEVIN MC­GRAN Sports Re­porter Kevin Mc­Gran is a sports re­porter based in Toronto. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @kev­in_m­c­gran

The way things ended the last time the Maple Leafs played the Bos­ton Bru­ins, and given that home-ice ad­van­tage in the play­offs might mean some­thing, sug­gests there might be more than just a lit­tle edge to Sat­ur­day’s meet­ing.

“We’re ob­vi­ously com­pet­ing in the stand­ings,” said Leafs for­ward Zach Hy­man. “Last year we played in the play­offs … we have a his­tory.”

For those who have for­got­ten, Hy­man was sus­pended two games for a late hit on Char­lie McAvoy in the Bru­ins’ 6-3 victory on Dec. 8. Hy­man’s hit prompted Bos­ton’s Chris Wag­ner to hunt down Leafs de­fence­man Morgan Rielly, which prompted Ron Hain­sey to drop the gloves. That game sparked de­bate about whether the Leafs were a phys­i­cal enough team.

Bos­ton’s win was its sec­ond in three meet­ings this sea­son against a team they own in the play­offs. The two clubs ap­pear des­tined the meet again in the first round.

“These are points we want to get here,” said Rielly, keep­ing a busi­nesslike ap­proach to his an­swers about the Bru­ins be­cause he does not ex­pect an emo­tional spillover. “That was a long time ago, we’ve both moved on. This is an im­por­tant game in the stand­ings. That’s our fo­cus.”

Since that De­cem­ber game, the Bru­ins are 10-5-0; the Leafs are 8-5-1.

Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock sang the Bru­ins’ praises and doesn’t mind if the game has an edge to it, be­cause it all amounts to a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for his play­ers.

“They’re a team that’s played us real well, we think we can play them bet­ter. The stand­ings, they’re right there with us,” said Bab­cock. “What I re­ally like about them is not only are they skilled, they put their work ethic in front of their skill. They play right, they come at you with grit, speed, skill and de­ter­mi­na­tion. They’re a great ex­am­ple for our guys.

“The bot­tom line is you have to go out there and play. That’s the most im­por­tant thing — how hard you com­pete on the puck. The rest usu­ally looks af­ter it­self.”

As a ri­val, the Bru­ins don’t quite have the his­toric panache of the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, or even the Detroit Red Wings. And Bos­ton doesn’t have the geo­graphic prox­im­ity of the Buf­falo Sabres or Ottawa Sen­a­tors.

In the here and now, how­ever, the Bru­ins are the Leafs’ big­gest ri­val from a fan per­spec­tive, even if the play­ers might not see it that way.

“There’s been a time we didn’t have much luck in Buf­falo or Mon­treal,” said Rielly. “It’s a good league, a good di­vi­sion. Our record against Tampa could use some work.

“But I don’t think we think about past. They’re play­ing re­ally well right now. They’re a good team. And we’ll have our hands full. But this team has con­fi­dence play­ing any team in the league.”

The Leafs may get No. 1 goal­tender Fred­erik An­der­sen back for the game. Ear­lier in the week, An­der­sen had tar­geted a Sat­ur­day re­turn from his groin in­jury. Bab­cock tem­pered those hopes, sug­gest­ing Mon­day against Colorado was more likely.

But Bab­cock re­lented Fri­day af­ter prac­tice, say­ing he ex­pected a de­ci­sion from the team’s med­i­cal staff by 11 a.m. Sat­ur­day.

“We’ll fig­ure it out and go from there,” said Bab­cock. “It will be based on what in­for­ma­tion I get. If I go to a player ev­ery­day and ask him how he’s do­ing, I’m just put­ting the heat on him. I’m not do­ing that. When they’re ready, they usu­ally come and tell you. When some­one tells you, they get a get-out-of-jail­free card and get go­ing.”

An­der­sen said he was pro­gress­ing well. “I’m try­ing to be pos­i­tive about it,” said An­der­sen. “We’ll see. We have to get back to a point where it (the groin) is com­fort­able and we’re not mak­ing it worse.”

McAvoy was play­ing his first game back in that De­cem­ber meet­ing with Toronto in Bos­ton, re­cov­er­ing from a con­cus­sion. He’s been out again since Dec. 23, suf­fer­ing a foot in­fec­tion, but is ex­pected back Sat­ur­day.

They put their work ethic in front of their skill. They play right, they come at you with grit, speed, skill and de­ter­mi­na­tion. They’re a great ex­am­ple for our guys. MIKE BAB­COCK Maple Leafs coach

MADDIE MEYER GETTY IM­AGES

The Leafs’ Nazem Kadri tus­sles with Bos­ton’s Bran­don Carlo dur­ing the Bru­ins’ 6-3 win on Dec. 8 at TD Gar­den. The Leafs close out their sea­son se­ries vs. Bos­ton on Sat­ur­day at Sco­tia­bank Arena.

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