For a slumping Boston Bruins team trying to avoid its first three-game skid since October, Tuesday night's MVP may be the schedule maker.
That's because the Bruins will get to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom they've defeated in all four meetings this season in convincing fashion.
Boston (38-23-3) has dropped two straight and three of four after Sunday's 4-3 road loss to the New York Rangers, who expanded their lead to 12 points over the second-seeded Bruins atop the Eastern Conference.
"We played a pretty good game," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who took his second loss in as many days with Tuukka Rask sidelined by injury. "Right now, what can go wrong, will. It's one of those modes."
Thomas will likely be seeing the lion's share of the time in net for the rest of the season after the Bruins announced Monday that Rask, who left Saturday's 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, will miss four to six weeks with a lower abdomen/groin strain.
Boston recalled Michael Hutchinson from Providence of the AHL to serve as Thomas' backup and signed Marty Turco to a one-year deal Monday. If Turco clears waivers, he will join the Bruins on Wednesday.
David Krejci, Jordan Caron and Benoit Pouliot scored Sunday for Boston, which outshot the Rangers 33-17 - a performance that had left wing Milan Lucic looking on the bright side.
"Other than the result, we have a lot to be happy about," said Lucic, who has one goal and three assists during a three-game point streak. "We played a real good game after we called that timeout. We had everyone going. It was the best effort that we've had in a long time. We need to keep our heads high and remember the things here that gave the scoring chances and the momentum."
Lucic has plenty of reason to be upbeat about another matchup with the Maple Leafs (30-28-7). He has five goals and five assists in this season's four meetings, helping the Bruins win all four by a combined margin of 23-6. Lucic has scored a pair of goals in each of Boston's two visits to Air Canada Centre.
This is the first meeting between these Original Six rivals since a 4-1 home win for the Bruins on Dec. 3, but the Leafs are playing worse now than they were then. Toronto has gone 2-9-1 over its last 12 contests while allowing nearly four goals per game, and has dropped five straight at home since a 6-3 victory over Edmonton exactly one month ago.
The slump claimed the job of coach Ron Wilson, whom the Maple Leafs fired Friday and replaced with former Toronto defenseman and Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.
The move looked good in Carlyle's debut Saturday, as the Leafs snapped a season-high six-game skid by winning 3-1 at Montreal.
Mikhail Grabovski scored twice in the third period to break open a tie game and assisted on a goal by Matt Frattin to make the new coach a winner. Toronto generally dominated the play, outshooting the Canadiens 42-22.
"It's obviously a nice way to start," Carlyle said. "I thought our team put out an effort. It's impressive when you can go into the other team's building and hold them to under 25 shots and score two big goals in the third to eke out a win. I asked them to skate and not worry about anything but what our focus was, which was to win the game. We stayed with our game plan."
Toronto leading scorer Phil Kessel, who spent his first three seasons in Boston from 2006-2009, has just one assist in the season series against his former club.
The Bruins haven't dropped three in a row since Oct. 22-29, their longest skid of the season.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Boston Bruins
- Milan Lucic