Two very banged-up, low scoring teams, one looking to save a playoff spot, the other trying to avoid the NHL cellar, lock horns Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The 29th-place Maple Leafs, opening three straight at home, will try again to put some distance between the Boston Bruins and the first overall pick in June, which the Bs own from the Phil Kessel trade. Making matters worse for the Leafs is that Kessel has been unable to dent his old team on the scoreboard in four games so far.
Boston, minus No. 2 scorer Marc Savard, at home with a Grade Two concussion that re-ignited the league’s head shot debate, and defenceman Zdeno Chara (lower body injury), hope to win the fourth of five meetings so far.
The Leafs will have Jonas Gustavsson in goal after J-S Giguere played in last week’s 2-1 shootout loss in Boston, while the Bruins come back with Tim Thomas.
Toronto coach Ron Wilson confirms the team will be without winger Fredrik Sjostrom the next two weeks, with a shoulder injury.
Two of the most excited Leafs for the match are winger Luca Caputi, making his home debut on the first line with Kessel and Tyler Bozak, while centre Mikhail Grabovski is back after breaking his wrist on Jan. 2. Wilson bumped Nikolai Kulemin from the first line to form a new unit with Grabovski and Viktor Stalberg.
“I don’t expect him to be 100% off the bat,” Wilson said of Grabovski. “But we miss his speed and his chances of beating other players 1-on-1. This is not about (promoting Caputi), it’s about finding someone to play with Grabbo.”
Grabovski returns to what has become the youngest team in the league in his absence and as its third-leading scorer, despite the time missed.
Caputi has given up trying to get tickets for everyone in the Maple and Woodbridge areas who wanted to see him at the ACC.
“It’s double digit at least,” Caputi said of demand.
Wilson got a chuckle thinking about all the Italian-Canadians who will be in the house to watch Caputi.
“I went to an Italian restaurant last night and had to pay full fare,” Wilson teased. “So (Caputi) will be lucky if he gets on the power play tonight.”
Luca Caputi Tyler Bozak Phil Kessel
Nikolai Kulemin Mikhail Grabovski Viktor Stalberg
Rickard Wallin Christian Hanson Jamie Lundmark
John Mitchell Wayne Primeau Colton Orr
Dion Phaneuf Francois Beauchemin
Luke Schenn Tomas Kaberle
Jeff Finger Carl Gunnarsson
Daniel Paille Patrice Bergeron Marco Sturm
Blake Wheeler David Krejci Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton Steve Begin Mark Recchi.
Milan Lucic Vladimir Sobotka Miroslav Satan
Jeff Penner Mark Stuart
Dennis Wideman Dennis Seidenberg
Johnny Boychuk Matt Hunwick
Tuukka Rask Tim Thomas