The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to improve their record under Randy Carlyle to 2-0 when they host the rival Boston Bruins for tonight's Northeast Division clash at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs fired head coach Ron Wilson on Friday after the club went 1-9-1 in 11 games from Feb. 7-29. Carlyle, who was fired earlier this season by Anaheim, was named as Wilson's replacement and Toronto responded positively to the coaching switch by ending a six-game losing streak with Saturday's 3-1 victory in Montreal.
"It's a nice way to start. I thought our team put in an effort and put it all on the line," Carlyle said after his first game behind the Toronto bench.
The 55-year-old Carlyle spent seven seasons as the head coach of the Anaheim Ducks before getting fired by Anaheim after a 7-13-4 start to this season. He led Anaheim to its one and only Stanley Cup title in 2007.
Mikhail Grabovski scored twice in the final eight-plus minutes of regulation to help lift the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Matt Frattin added the other tally for Toronto, while Jonas Gustavsson stopped 21-of-22 shots.
Gustavsson makes his third straight start for the Leafs tonight. Mike Brown is out with stiches in hand and Jay Rosehill is in. John-Michael Liles was not at the morning skate due to a high fever so he will be a game-time decision.
Toronto hopes Carlyle can help get his new franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Leafs enter today five points out of a postseason berth in the East.
The Maple Leafs, who are 16-12-5 at the ACC this season, will try to end a five-game slide at home tonight.
Toronto will also try to earn its first victory against the Bruins this season, as the defending Stanley Cup champions are 4-0 against the Maple Leafs in 2011-12. Boston, which has won two straight and three of its last four in Toronto, has outscored the Leafs by a combined 23-6 margin this season.
The Bruins, who lead the Northeast by three points over Ottawa, have dropped two straight and three of their last four games and lost in regulation to both New York teams on consecutive days over the weekend. Boston was dealt a 3-2 loss by the visiting Islanders on Saturday and then suffered a 4-3 setback to the Rangers on the following day in New York City.
Boston tied the Rangers at 3-3 on a goal by David Krejci with 8:18 left in the third period, but Derek Stepan notched the game-winner for New York on a terrific wrist shot just 39 seconds later.
On the winning goal, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto jumped up in the play and took a pass into the Boston zone. From the low left circle he passed it back to Stepan, whose heavy wrister from the top of the left circle hit off the left shoulder of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and went in.
"He was going to release it then crossed over," said Thomas. "I felt it hit my shoulder, but I didn't pick it up until it was about three feet away and by then it was too late."
Jordan Caron had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, while Krejci and Benoit also added goals. Thomas was charged with all four goals on just 17 shots. Thomas is expected to get the bulk of the starts in the near future while regular backup Tuukka Rask recovers from a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday's loss to the Islanders.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is expected to miss today's game with a lower-body injury, while forward Daniel Paille is questionable with an injured left arm.
Boston is 19-11-1 as the road team this season
--- The Sports Network