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Questionable penalty against Bruins helps push Leafs to victory

03.20.17 at 11:15 pm ET
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The Bruins and Leafs skated in a playoff atmosphere in Toronto. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Leafs skated in a playoff atmosphere in Toronto. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

It was the most important game of the season for the Bruins. Same for the Maple Leafs, too, actually. And it lived up to the billing.

It was a game that would have led you to believe that it was being played in April and not March. No check went unfinished. No whistle went without some post-whistle shoving. No line change went unmatched by Bruce Cassidy and the Leafs’ Mike Babcock.

It was the kind of game you would never want to see decided by a questionable penalty call one way or the other.

So naturally, that’s exactly how a 4-2 final between the Bruins and Leafs ended in their fourth and final regular season head-to-head.

With the Bruins in pursuit of the go-ahead goal against the Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, B’s forward Dominic Moore was whistled for an interference on a drive to the front of the Toronto net. Matched up with Nikita Soshnikov, Moore outmuscled the Maple Leaf forward, who knew he was coming, and as Soshnikov tumbled down to the ice, the hands of the official went up almost immediately.

Wait, really?

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Matt Beleskey happy to be ready and able as Bruins visit Maple Leafs

03.20.17 at 7:21 pm ET
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Matt Beleskey will play tonight in Toronto. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Beleskey will play tonight in Toronto. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Last Thursday in Edmonton could have gone a lot better for Bruins winger Matt Beleskey. But it could have gone a lot worse, too.

Late in the third period of a blowout loss to the Oil, Beleskey was working the front of the net when he was blasted in the side of the head by an errant shot from Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.

Beleskey crumbled down to the ice in a heap, and was helped off the ice by his teammates as some blood trickled out from behind his ear. But back at practice on Sunday and ready to play tonight in Toronto (because he’s Beleskey), the 28-year-old felt saved by his helmet.

Strike that, he was saved from serious damage by that helmet.

“I’m glad it caught the corner of my helmet — I’m sure that took a lot of the blow,” Beleskey, now sporting a large bump around his ear, said. “It was pretty funny — you look at [Bergeron] and his nose was bleeding. I think he had my blood on him. It was a tough game for us, but we move on to Toronto and we have a big one [tonight].”

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Bruins’ David Backes (illness) will be a game-time decision vs. Maple Leafs

03.20.17 at 4:13 pm ET
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David Backes will be a gametime decision tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

David Backes will be a gametime decision tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

A morning skate at the Air Canada Centre came with an unexpected absence for the Bruins. David Backes, part of the club’s rotating top six right side with David Pastrnak, was not in his semi-usual spot with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Replaced by Jimmy Hayes on the Bergeron, Backes’ absence was not how the Bruins drew up their Monday night plans when they traveled to Toronto yesterday afternoon, of course, but it doesn’t seem to be cause for alarm for B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

“He’ll be a gametime decision,” Cassidy said of Backes’ availability for tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. “A little bit under the weather so we told him to stay home this morning, but I’ll expect he’ll play.”

It’s just another obstacle — though not as severe as those previously encountered — in Backes’ first year in Boston, which has been derailed by an elbow infection and a concussion earlier at different points, and almost by a knee injury last week in Calgary.

But given the importance of this game for the Bruins, who are winless in three prior head-to-heads with the Maple Leafs and holding a mere three-point advantage over the Leafs, it’s safe to assume that Backes will more than likely give it a go tonight.

The only other concern that comes with a sick player dressing though is the risk that there’s a flu going throughout the room.

But Cassidy was quick to shut that down before the start of a pivotal four games in six nights stretch for the club.

“Not really, no,” Cassidy said when asked if there was a bug going through the B’s dressing room right now. “Just David and I think our trainer had the sniffles yesterday, so other than that we’re pretty good.”

Backes has 15 goals and 34 points in 63 games this season.

Bruins winger Brad Marchand named NHL 1st Star of the Week

03.20.17 at 3:37 pm ET
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Bruins winger Brad Marchand was named the NHL's 1st Star of the Week. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand was named the NHL’s 1st Star of the Week. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The accolades just keep coming for Bruins winger Brad Marchand.

Following a week that included five goals and nine points in just three games for the Bruins’ 5-foot-9 top-liner, the NHL recognized Marchand as the league’s First Star of the Week on Monday.

The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby was honored as the league’s second star and Calgary netminder Brian Elliott was named the third star.

Marchand’s big week began with a third period hat trick that propelled the Bruins to a 6-3 comeback win over the Canucks last Monday. Marchand also recorded an assist in that game. He followed that with a one-goal, two-point performance against the Flames on Wednesday, and added a goal and two assists in Thursday’s loss to the Oilers.

It’s become par for the course for Marchand, who leads all NHL skaters in points since Jan. 1, with 27 goals and 48 points in total.

Marchand has already tied his career-high in goals this season with 37, and has set a new career-high in points, too, with 79.

He enters today three goals behind Crosby for the most in the league, and just one point behind his league-leading 80 points.

New father of twins, Drew Stafford will meet Bruins in Toronto

03.20.17 at 3:26 am ET
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Drew Stafford's wife gave birth to twins. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford’s wife gave birth to twins. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Drew Stafford had a more than good enough excuse to miss Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. Stafford, who came to Boston as the father of one, a two-year-old named Mason, is officially a father of three after his wife gave birth to twins over the weekend.

‘Officially’ is a weird tagline when you talk about pregnancies and childbirths, of course, but it completes the relatively unknown timeline that Stafford talked about in regards to his wife when he first arrived to Boston. David Backes, a fellow Minnesotan, revealed that Stafford’s wife was ‘very pregnant’ when he was moved to Boston from Winnipeg. So much so that when Stafford met with her at the airport before his connecting flight somewhere between Winnipeg and Boston, people were actually worried that she was there to catch a flight, which would have been a definite no-no given where she was in her pregnancy.

And as timing worked out, with the Bruins off on Friday and Saturday, Stafford was able to travel back home and be with his wife following the birth of their twins. That travel back to Minnesota obviously led to Stafford’s aforementioned absence on Sunday.

But it was an absence the Bruins can live with, as Bruce Cassidy noted that the newborns were ‘healthy’ and that the veteran Stafford would meet the Bruins in Toronto for Monday night’s game against the Maple Leafs.

The Bruins are prepared for any potential snag in the road back to the B’s that could come Stafford’s way, however, with forwards Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly recalled from the P-Bruins on an emergency basis.

The 31-year-old Stafford, acquired from the Jets for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2018, has recorded two goals and five points in seven games with the Bruins, and six goals and 18 points in 47 games between the B’s and Jets.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask ‘of course’ would play in back-to-back situation

03.20.17 at 2:54 am ET
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Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is open to playing on both Monday and Tuesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is open to playing on both Monday and Tuesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

This is one big, massive, gigantic week for the Bruins. And it starts with a back-to-back beginning with Monday against the Maple Leafs up in Toronto and then Tuesday night against the Senators in Boston.

The Leafs are just three points back of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, have a in game in hand over the Black and Gold, and are 3-0-0 against the Bruins this season. The Sens are ahead of the B’s by four points for second place in the division, and have beat the Bruins in both of their prior meetings this season.

These are the games that the Bruins need Tuukka Rask to show up and stand on his head as he’s done so many times this season.

On back-to-back nights.

A challenge that the 30-year-old would be ready for if given the call.

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Patrice Bergeron misses practice, but will travel to Toronto with Bruins

03.19.17 at 12:26 pm ET
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Bruins center Patrice Bergeron will travel to Toronto with the team. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron will travel to Toronto with the team. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was nowhere to be found on the ice at practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Sunday morning.

But fear not: it was a mere maintenance day for the do-it-all Bergeron according to B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. And it has since been confirmed that Bergeron will travel with the team to Toronto in anticipation of Monday’s pivotal head-to-head with the Maple Leafs.

“I’m expecting him to play,” Cassidy, who gave the team both Friday and Saturday off, said after practice when asked of Bergeron’s official status for tomorrow. “But we’ll know more in a couple of hours.”

In preparation for the unknown, the Bruins have recalled forwards Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly from Providence on an emergency basis.

And with the Leafs behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division by just three points and with a game in hand, the Bruins will undoubtedly need Bergeron against a Toronto team that’s smacked them around in the season series so far, with the Maple Leafs outscoring the Bruins 14-to-7 and having won all three prior showdowns.

The 31-year-old Bergeron is on a four-game point streak, with five assists over that stretch, and has totaled 17 goals and 48 points in 68 games this season, including one goal and three points in two games against the Leafs.

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