|TOR||1||1||2||(0 - 0)||4|
|BOS||1||1||1||(0 - 0)||3|
Struggling to create breathing room atop the Northeast Division, the Boston Bruins would appear to have a good chance to do that over the next two weeks.
Opening that stretch against the Toronto Maple Leafs may bode well.
The Bruins looks to continue their dominance of the Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup Tuesday night.
Boston (31-18-7) leads the Northeast by one point over second-place Montreal. Since taking the division lead from the Canadiens on Dec. 27, the Bruins haven't been able to build more than a four-point edge.
They've watched that dwindle since, losing three of four following Sunday's 4-2 defeat at Detroit to get swept in the home-and-home set.
Now, the Bruins seem poised to begin building an ample cushion. Six of Boston's next seven opponents are currently outside the playoff picture, including two with Ottawa and another at Edmonton - the two teams with the fewest points in the NHL.
Starting that stretch versus Toronto (23-27-6) should help. The Bruins are 11-1-2 in the last 14 meetings with the Maple Leafs, winning all six home matchups with a 30-13 scoring advantage.
Tim Thomas, who will likely be in net, made 20 saves in a 2-0 victory in the latest meeting at TD Garden on Oct. 28, winning his fourth straight home start in the series. He's 6-0-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average over the last eight overall.
Thomas, though, lost 3-2 in a shootout at Toronto on Dec. 4, making 38 stops through overtime before getting beaten twice in the tiebreaker.
Nathan Horton has two goals and one assist in the last two games versus the Maple Leafs, giving him three and five, respectively over the past eight with Boston and Florida.
The right wing was held without a point over the last two games after getting a career-high five in an 8-6 win over Montreal on Wednesday.
While Boston is atop the Northeast, Toronto is 12th in the Eastern Conference, 10 points out of playoff position and possibly looking ahead to next season.
The club dealt left wing Kris Versteeg to East-leading Philadelphia on Monday for two draft picks. Versteeg had 14 goals and 21 assists in 53 games with Toronto after winning a Stanley Cup with Chicago last season.
It's the Leafs' second notable deal in less than a week after sending defenseman Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for left wing Joffrey Lupul, who has no points in two games.
Toronto didn't do the Bruins any favors Saturday, losing 3-0 at Montreal.
"You know we're not going to go without losing until the end of the season," said Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 36 saves. "It's disappointing, you want to at least be competing. I don't think we did that, but we've got to move on and try to win the next game."
Phil Kessel is on the cusp of matching the longest goal drought of his career. The All-Star right wing went 15 games without scoring as a rookie with Boston from Jan. 18-Feb. 20, 2007.
"Phil's the one whose gonna work his way out of this," coach Ron Wilson said. "There's only so much you can do to help him in terms of playing him with different people. He's gotta score on his chances and dig in and help in other ways until the puck goes in the net."
Kessel hasn't scored in nine games against his former club.