Maple Leafs-Bruins Preview

The Associated Press

After a pair of uncharacteristic one-goal defeats, the Boston Bruins are focused on recapturing the defensive effort that has contributed to their overall success.

That hasn't been much of an issue when facing the Toronto Maple Leafs recently.

Boston looks to avoid a third straight loss Thursday night while winning an eighth consecutive meeting with visiting Toronto, which is seeking its fourth victory in a row.

The Bruins (14-3-3) allowed nine goals during a recent six-game winning streak, with Tuukka Rask winning his five starts while posting a 1.38 goals-against average.

Things haven't gone as well in their last two contests, though, as they allowed two third-period goals in a 4-3 loss to Montreal on Sunday before blowing a three-goal lead and falling by the same score in overtime Tuesday at Washington.

The latest defeat marked Boston's third game in four nights and the team spent its day off Wednesday discussing its defensive lapses.

"We're playing a lot of games here lately, but defensively, we need to be a lot better," coach Claude Julien told the team's official website. "That's an issue. We have a lot of guys that have to be better for us."

Brad Marchand scored his team-leading 12th goal Tuesday and is tied with Patrice Bergeron for the team lead with 18 points. He said the Bruins don't have much time to be dwelling on the past.

"With the schedule right now, we really got to put games behind us - win or lose," Marchand said. "We do have to take the negatives and the positives and we've got to learn from them."

Boston recorded its only shutout of the season as Chris Bourque scored midway through the first period and Rask made 21 saves in a 1-0 win at Toronto on Feb. 2.

That marked the second straight shutout and third overall during the Bruins' dominating seven-game winning streak in the series. They've outscored the Maple Leafs 37-10 during that span, winning five matchups by at least three goals.

Rask has been outstanding against the team that drafted him 21st overall in 2005, winning his last four starts versus Toronto with a 0.94 GAA.

The Leafs (15-9-0) will be looking to extend their three-game winning streak after holding on for a 5-4 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday. Former Bruin Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists while James van Riemsdyk added his team-high 13th goal and an assist.

Nazem Kadri, who has a team-best 24 points, continued his tear with another goal and now has five to go along with five assists during a six-game point streak for the Leafs, who are just two points behind Eastern Conference-leading Montreal at the halfway point of the lockout-shortened season.

Toronto hasn't qualified for the playoffs since 2003-04.

''To me, (the current standings are) irrelevant right now,'' coach Randy Carlyle said. ''We've got a lot of work ahead of us.''

James Reimer made 39 saves Wednesday to win his sixth straight start and he made 33 in the first meeting with Boston, but it's unclear if he or Ben Scrivens will be in net for the second of a back-to-back.

It's unclear if Toronto's Frazer McLaren, who received eight stitches on his chin after a fight and four more to his cheek from a high stick Wednesday, will be in the lineup for this contest.

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