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Bruins show playoff intensity, but can’t secure win in loss to Leafs 02.04.17 at 10:10 pm ET
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Bruins/Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins/Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It ran long at times, but Saturday night at TD Garden had it all.

It was past 8 p.m. before the first period came to an end. The third period did not begin until 9:30 p.m. the home crowd didn’t wanna leave. In an Original Six matchup with meaning — the Maple Leafs came to Boston on a three-game losing skid and three points behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division — the Bruins and Leafs called back to the days of old with the blood feud of a near century-long rivalry. They countered with goals, agitation, and a fight.

The Leafs even blew a 4-1 lead. Playoff hockey? Yeah, it’s here.

As close as it can be in February for these desperate clubs.

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Adam McQuaid and Matt Martin drop gloves in potential Fight of the Year 02.04.17 at 9:17 pm ET
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Since the last one didn’t work, here’s another reminder to the NHL: Fighting Adam McQuaid is still a bad idea.

It may even border on a stupid idea, at this point.

With the Bruins in search of a spark in a listless second period, McQuaid engaged with Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin.

In a battle of true NHL heavyweights — McQuaid is listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds while Martin checks in at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds — the towering duo traded blow for blow before landed the knockout punch and sent Martin back to the room.

The energy was felt throughout the bench.

“McQuaid stood up and woke some of the guys up with that scrap,” Julien admitted, “it seemed to give us some life.”

“It was obviously an amazing fight by both guys,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Adam has always been a huge influence on a lot of guys. He’s very quiet but he always works hard and goes about his business. He stands up for his teammates.”

Bruins forward Austin Czarnik said it was the loudest he’s heard the TD Garden all season.

The fight was McQuaid’s team-leading fourth fight of the season.

Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask expected to play for Bruins vs. Maple Leafs 02.04.17 at 5:01 pm ET
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Both Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask are expected to be in vs. the Maple Leafs. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Both Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask are expected to be in vs. the Maple Leafs. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The bad news for the Bruins is that they’re basically in must-win territory, even in the beginning of February. That’s especially true against the Maple Leafs, a team that’s beaten the Bruins two times in as many head-to-heads this season and one of several teams chasing the Bruins for a spot in the playoff picture, tonight at TD Garden.

The good news for the Bruins, however, comes with the anticipated return of both No. 1 center Patrice Bergeron and ace goaltender Tuukka Rask, who both missed missed Friday’s practice, Bergeron because of a lower-body injury and Rask for some good old fashioned maintenance.

“We’ll probably have to make a game-time decision, but they both look fine,” Claude Julien said after the club’s skate at Warrior Ice Arena.

“I felt better today,” Bergeron said this morning, “it was a lot of better than it was in the third period when I tried to go back out there. There should be a good chance [that I play].”

The 31-year-old Bergeron has tallied 12 goals and 26 points in 51 games this season, but has turned it on (read as: finally found some offensive luck) in recent games, with seven goals and 16 points in his last 17 games played.

A rested Rask (the 29-year-old had two consecutive days off between Wednesday in D.C. and tonight) is good news for the Bruins, too, as he enters play with 15 wins and a .932 save percentage in 21 career starts against the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs come into this game on a three-game losing streak but still just three points behind the Bruins with five games in hand.

Connecticut governor makes pitch for Islanders to move to Hartford 02.03.17 at 3:52 pm ET
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The Islanders could be looking for a new home. (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

The Islanders could be looking for a new home. (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

Cue up “Brass Bonanza” because we’ve got ourselves some good old-fashioned Hartford hockey talk.

According to Hartford’s WFSB, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy has sent a letter to Islanders ownership offering up the XL Center as a temporary, and perhaps long-term, home for the franchise.

The Islanders could be looking for a new home after the 2017-18 or 2018-19 season following reports that their current home, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (which also hosts the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets), could make more money without them there and is looking to dump them.

The XL Center was home to the Whalers from 1975 until the team left for Carolina in 1997. It has undergone a number of renovations in recent years, and Malloy notes in his letter (you can read the full letter here) that there are plans for more to come.

It’s all a long shot since the Islanders’ first choice is presumably to stay in the New York City area, but hey, it’s worth a try, right? At the very least, it gives us all an excuse to listen to this:

Bruins coach Claude Julien wears ‘Do Your Job’ shirt to practice 02.03.17 at 2:19 pm ET
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Do Your Job.

It’s a phrase that Claude Julien has often adopted for his own team, but also one that he wore on his chest Friday.

After a 45-minute on-ice session at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tomorrow’s pivotal head-to-head with the Maple Leafs, Julien greeted the media wearing a Patriots shirt featuring Bill Belichick’s famous ‘Do Your Job’ motto that became a rallying cry of sorts for the Patriots during their Super Bowl run in 2015. But the 10-year coach of the Bruins was far from the only Bruin donning some Patriots gear ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl LI showdown between the Patriots and Falcons.

In fact, every Bruins player had a brand new Patriots toque and shirt in their locker following the skate.

“After tomorrow night, I’m all in,” Julien, who skated with Belichick when the B’s borrowed his field for the 2016 Winter Classic against the Canadiens, said when asked about his Patriots gear. “But this can be attributed to us, too. We have to do our jobs.

“So it’s a double meaning.”

The Bruins skate against the Leafs at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.

Bruins expect goaltender Tuukka Rask to play tomorrow 02.03.17 at 1:55 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask missed Friday's practice. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask missed Friday’s practice. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Already deep into what will be a guaranteed stressful finish to their season, the Bruins are hoping some rest and relaxation will be the key for their best player one day before their biggest game of the season.

Tuukka Rask, absent from Friday’s practice with what the team has termed a maintenance day, and for the second day in a row as the team had a scheduled off day Thursday, but is expected to be ready for the Black and Gold tomorrow night against the Maple Leafs.

“We expect him to be in goal,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has deployed Rask as the starter for 43 of 54 games this year (Rask has been available in 51 games). “We’d like to get Tuukka maybe less games than he’s had, but at the same time we can’t worry about what it’s gonna be like a month from now, we gotta worry about right now.”

The 29-year-old Rask, who was an All-Star along with Brad Marchand, did not get last weekend off like most of his Bruins teammates, and his game has taken a substantial dip in the calendar year, with just six wins and an .874 save percentage since the start of January. Wednesday night in Washington, a game in which Rask stopped just 17 of 22 shots thrown his way, was perhaps the worst he’s looked this year, at least from a ‘freshness’ standpoint.

But the Bruins hope that a fortunate schedule can bring the best out of the team’s ticket to postseason contention.

“Right now is an important part of the schedule, but it’s also part of the schedule where we’re getting a lot of breaks,” Julien said Friday. “[After Saturday], there’s four more days without a game, then there’s three, and then there’s five more days without a game, so we’re going to do everything we can to give [Tuukka] his rest.”

Rask has 25 wins and a .914 save percentage in 43 games this season.

Bruins winger Frank Vatrano joins WEEI.com’s Josh Dolan for Facebook Live chat 02.03.17 at 1:05 pm ET
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Bruins winger Frank Vatrano joined WEEI.com’s Josh Dolan following Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

The two were also bombed by two of Vatrano’s teammates not long into the interview.

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