TORONTO -- Greetings again from the ACC, where the Bruins tonight hope to shake their recent run of mediocrity (1-2-3 in the last six games) with the mid-April start of the playoffs on the horizon.
''It will be nice to be there again,'' said Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle, the ex-Leaf, referring to the playoffs. Kaberle hasn't played a post-season game since April 2004, the spring leading up to the lockout. That span of seven calendar years is longer than the average player's NHL career.
It will be Kaberle's first game at the ACC as a member of the visiting team.
''Mixed feelings about it all,'' said the veteran defenseman, a disappointing 0-3--3 in his 12 games in Black-and-Gold, speaking of his return tonight. ''I'll do my best for Boston and try to get the two points.''
Coach Claude Julien on Kaberle's impact since arriving in the Feb. 18 swap with Toronto: ''He sees the ice well, moves the puck well and he's poised; he doesn't panic under pressure. We're going to work with him and help him adapt to certain things we are trying to do.''
Julien said defenseman Andrew Ference, out since sustaining an injury (undisclosed) Feb. 26, will skate in the pre-game warmup and his availability assessed then. Sounds as if the oft-injured blueliner will play, sending rookie Steven Kampfer to the sidelines.
Yet another look this eve at ex-Bruin Phil Kessel, now 28-25--53 in 72 games this season, a pace about on target with his career-high 60 points, tallied with the Bruins in 2008-'09. Kessel's been a hunk-a-hunk of burnin' offense of late, going 9-7--16 over the last 16 games. The Leafs in those games: 8-4-4, .625.
Kessel tonight is expected to open on Toronto's second line with Joffrey Lupul (LW) and Nazem Kadri (C).
Puck drop: 7 p.m.
Record: Bruins, 39-21-10; Leafs, 31-31-10.
TV/radio info: NESN (Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, Naoko Funayama), 98.5 The Sports Hub (Dave Goucher, Bob Beers)
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Mark Recchi-Patrice Bergeron-Michael Ryder
Tyler Seguin-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Danny Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Tomas Kaberle-Adam McQuaid
Andrew Ference-Dennis Seidenberg
Healthy scratches: Brad Marchand (serving second game of two-game suspension), Steven Kampfer
Storylines: The Bruins realize extra equity in wins over the Leafs, since they own Toronto's top pick again in the draft as part of the compensation for shipping Kessel here in Sept. 2009. As of this morning, Kess Pick No. 2 ranked as No.7 overall....The Leafs only had a smattering of scrubs on the ice this morning and their regulars were not available to the media...The Bruins desperately need to spruce up their moribund power play, which is 1-for-27 over the last 11 games, a success rate of 3.7 percent. Vancouver owns the best power play in the business (24.8 percent) this season and the Oilers are last (12.8 percent). The Bruins rank 22nd at 16.4 percent. And then there's Boston's salt-to-the-wound PK unit was has been burned 7 of 39 times, an 18 percent failure rate, over the same 11 games. The league average for PK failure: 18 percent. Average penalty killing and a dormant PP add up to near-certain failure....>...Guys in stripes: Referees Bill McCreary and Fred L'Ecuyer; Linesemen Tim Nowak and Jonny Murray.