Bruins can rest their best for Leafs

The Bruins weren’t rushing Shawn Thornton back into the lineup after a 40-plus stitch gash on his...

The Bruins weren’t rushing Shawn Thornton back into the lineup after a 40-plus stitch gash on his right temple and Johnny Boychuk was given the night off. (QMI AGENCY/REUTERS)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:27 PM ET

BOSTON -- As the Maple Leafs gasped for playoff air in Massachusetts, the Bruins were preparing for a shot to clinch the Northeast at the expense of their division rivals - and take a breather for playoffs.

They weren’t rushing rugged winger Shawn Thornton back into the lineup on Thursday after a 40-plus stitch gash on his right temple and Johnny Boychuk, part of their top defence pairing with Zdeno Chara, was given the night off.

But Vezina candidate Tim Thomas will be in goal and coach Claude Julien insisted his team wasn’t looking past Toronto.

“They’ve beaten us here and in Toronto the past couple of games,” Julien noted after the morning skate. “By no means are we taking them lightly. They’re hanging on to some hope. Slim or not, it doesn’t matter. They have a mindset that they want to finish strongly.”

A regulation loss won’t eliminate the Leafs, but it means Buffalo and the Rangers would need just a win each to put the last nail in.

Thomas might win the NHL’s coveted goaltending award, but would like to do something about his 1-2-1 record against Toronto before this season is up.

“They’ve played some good games against us, though we’ve played as well as we can,” Thomas said. “This league is tough, top to bottom, and a lot depends on who shows up that night. For whatever reason, in a few of the games against Toronto, we weren’t all there.”

The Leafs were on high voltage almost two weeks ago when they won 5-2 at the ACC, the second straight decision for James Reimer over Thomas.

But the Leafs aren’t likely to concern the Bruins beyond Thursday. If they don’t get the needed two points to wrap up the Northeast, it will surely come in the final five games.

Boston is coming off a 3-0 win over the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, and taking a full day’s rest, though it wasn’t enough time for Thornton to heal. He had an unfortunate meeting with the skate blade of Fernando Pisani in the Chicago game. He practised Thursday morning with a visor and griped about it afterward, but with so many stitches (they lost count at 40) and the chance they could be ripped open if called upon in his fighting role, he was scratched.

“When I talked to him (about sitting) there was no pushing back,” Julien said. “Just because you’re a tough guy doesn’t mean you aren’t a smart guy.”

Thornton gave way to Michael Ryder, who has been in the doghouse for lack of production, while Boychuk rested for Steven Kampfer.

“We’re going to kind of rotate guys in and out,” Julien said. “We have an opportunity to give some guys some playing time.”

Defenceman Shane Hnidy, who has missed most of the year with a shoulder injury, could play Saturday against Atlanta, another boost for playoff depth.

The main body of Leafs didn’t skate in the morning, though the presence of Fredrik Sjostrom with the Black Aces means winger Jay Rosehill will be in the lineup if things get rough.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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