Ever since the Phil Kessel trade, there’s always been an added edge to any meeting between the Leafs and Bruins. Given the Leafs’ current predicament and the bodies they’ve added to their roster over the last two days, tonight won’t be any different. Toronto fans have been clamoring for Ron Wilson’s head on a platter since the Buds dropped an embarrassing game to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, but Brian Burke has remained stalwart in his claims that Wilson’s job remains safe. To be honest, it would be foolish to expect that a coaching change would be the impetus that would resurrect this team, especially considering the captain still remains out of the lineup, but if things haven’t started to look upward by the end of 2010, my sentiments might have changed on that a bit.
Colby Armstrong and Jay Rosehill will join the Leafs’ lineup tonight, with Armstrong expected to be inserted alongside Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel on the 2nd line. Nazem Kadri was demoted to the 4th line center role, where he’ll play between some combination of Orr, Rosehill and John Mitchell. The 3rd line will feature Sjostrom-Bozak-Brent, while the Grabovski line will take top billing tonight. Jean-Sebastien Giguere will likely get the start after filling in for Jonas Gustavsson on Thursday, although he looked less than stellar in his relief effort, giving up 3 goals on just 13 shots.
On the other bench, the Bruins are coming off of a couple of big wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, in which they outscored their opponents 11-1. Tim Thomas continues to play incredibly well, notching 78 saves in his last two outings. Of course, if Thomas doesn’t get the start, the Leafs will get to take another look at the goalie prospect they squandered away a few years ago, as Tuuka Rask has not played since November 28th, when he dropped a 4-1 decision to the Atlanta Thrashers. Rask is 1-6-1 with a 2.59 GAA on the season.
Marc Savard returned to the Bruins’ lineup on Thursday, but failed to register a point in the 8-1 rout of the Bolts. There’s a good chance Savard and his old linemate Kessel could be reunited in the faceoff circle tonight, as Kessel has apparently offered to take the 2nd line center role between Armstrong and Versteeg. Given the Leafs’ incredible struggles up the middle, it should be interesting to see how the lifelong winger adapts to his new role.