Kessel needs to be better

LANCE HORNBY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

BOSTON -- About a week from now, the Maple Leafs will be sick of clam chowder and the Bruins will be tired of downtown Toronto gridlock.

And both will be fed up playing the other when their three games jammed into two weeks is concluded.

Tonight at the TD Garden is their second meeting in less than a week, with the Bruins not having played since beating the Leafs 7-2 here on Saturday.

"Preparation-wise, it's unique because you're watching film of the same team and the same names are on the board for a week," said Boston forward Blake Wheeler. "But we realize what we did to be successful against them last week. We know it will be a much tougher game this time, that they'll be champing at the bit tonight."

Some Bruins equated the condensed series, which wraps up Dec. 19 at the Air Canada Centre, to a playoff-type atmosphere. In reality, the clubs haven't clashed in the spring since 1974.

"First of all we're division rivals, so those points are more important than games against the Western Conference," said ex-Leaf farmhand Shawn Thornton. "They're built like us, a big, strong team that can skate, so there will be some intensity."

The Bruins expect ex-mate Phil Kessel to have a much better game than Saturday when he came down with stage fright, looking lost in his old home with fans jeering him as the score mounted.

"They had a flat game against us, but we've had those, too," defenceman Derek Morris said. "This will be a different game. We have to keep their shots to the outside and make sure they don't get rebounds."

The Leafs chose not to skate this morning after getting in late from Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Islanders. It's expected Vesa Toskala will make a third start in goal and coach Ron Wilson will not make any line changes.

The time off since Saturday's win over the Leafs has allowed Boston defenceman Dennis Wideman's upper-body injury to heal and he's likely to play. Coach Claude Julien would not commit to either Tuukka Rask, who played Saturday, or Tim Thomas.

Interestingly, a Bruin has had a hat trick in the past three meetings. The last three were David Krejci, Wheeler and on Saturday, Marc Savard.

"I'm hoping it's my turn," Thornton joked. "It has been 32 years. I guess I'm due."

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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