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TORONTO — If the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have success against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will have to keep Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak under control.

Game 1 is at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NESN).

“Heck of a unit, one of the top ones,” Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “What I struggle with about them is they know where each other are without looking for each other. They have these automatic plays. You think they might do one thing and it’s a no-look pass instead of a one-timer, and it can end up in your net in a hurry. They’re really, really dangerous with that when you can’t predict.”
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]
Hainsey, defense partner Morgan Rielly, and forwards Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri and Mitchell Marner, are likely to draw the assignment on most occasions. Hainsey knows that shutting them down will require defensive awareness from everyone.

“Best-case scenario is to keep them out of our zone as much as possible,” Hainsey said. “That’s easier said than done. They’re going to get in our zone sometimes and get some time to make plays but the better we are at using all five guys on the ice to limit the time in our zone, the better we’ll be. If they get time and space, they have the ability to make plays against whoever it is. They’ve proven that over the last couple of years.”

Kadri said Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak each bring a different skill set to the line. Though each player excels in one area, they can all play different roles and that makes them harder to defend.
NHL Tonight: Bruins-Leafs Preview
03:14 • April 9th, 2018

“They have components at all three positions, they all work, their work ethic is great,” Kadri said. “Bergeron does some dirty work and plays with skill. Marchand is a bit of the playmaker with shiftiness and elusiveness, and Pastrnak is the shooter and goal scorer. The thing is though, they all can do each thing, which makes them more dangerous.”

Bergeron and Pasternak each had four points (two goals, two assists) in four games, and Marchand three points (two goals, one assist) in three games, against the Maple Leafs during the regular season. To make his point about their unpredictability, Hainsey referenced a goal Bergeron scored during Toronto’s 3-2 overtime win Nov. 10

Marchand got the puck in the corner at the goal line and carried it along the boards to the hash marks, finding Bergeron with a short pass to the top of the circle for a one-timer. Hainsey said he thought he was close enough to Bergeron to prevent the pass.
Bergeron’s blast opens scoring
00:59 • November 11th, 2017

“I just didn’t think Marchand would put the puck there, but he did and it was in,” Hainsey said.

Hainsey was also victimized on a goal during the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on April 7. Unlike Bergeron’s goal that caught Hainsey by surprise, he read the play properly and knew what was coming.
Petry’s fortuitous PPG
01:00 • April 8th, 2018

“I saw [Canadiens defenseman] Jeff Petry look for the guy at the back door, so I moved my stick there to break up the pass,” Hainsey said. “I ended up knocking it in the net. It was a pretty nice tip for them but that’s beside the point. The (Bergeron line) doesn’t do that. I don’t know where they’re going a lot of the time and it makes it very challenging.”

Kadri did not hesitate to share his strategy to try and contain the Bruins’ top line.

“Aggressive every time,” Kadri said. “Those guys are too good to give them space. There are times where you are going to be a little more passive because you don’t want to get beat one on one, or you don’t want them to spin off you, but there are certain areas of the ice where you can have some forgiveness of that. But usually, it’s about being as aggressive as possible.”

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PITTSBURGH – The Bruins are looking forward to their league-mandated, five-day bye week. But they know they have some business to take care of tonight in Pittsburgh before they get to settle in for some much-needed R&R.

“We have five days off after this, leaving on a high note – you don’t want to be thinking about a game that you let slip away for the next five days,” Riley Nash said following an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “Just sticking with it, doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing well, all the lines have been playing hard.”

The Black & Gold will be attempting to extend their points streak (8-0-2) to 11 games when they take the ice against the Penguins on Sunday night. But the players don’t seem worried about the bye week throwing a wrench into their torrid stretch.

“I think everyone needs the rest. You can look at it anyway you want,” said Nash, who tallied his fifth goal of the season in the B’s 7-1 win over Carolina on Saturday night. “If a team is struggling, it comes at a good time, if you’re doing well it comes at a bad time. It’s just the way you look at it. All in all, I think we can keep it up.

“Over the Christmas break we obviously came back and still played good hockey. I think we’ve shown that after a couple days off we can do it.”
The bye week will be the second of three extended breaks for the Bruins within a month’s span. Boston also had three days off for the holiday break and will have three more at the All-Star break later this month (Jan. 26-28).

“It’s always good to get rest in the middle of the year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s going to be the second of three in a short period of time. I think for me, it they’re spaced out a little better it’s probably more effective for the players. But it is what it is.

“We’re going to get on feeling good about our game. That’s the good news. And hopefully come back re-energized because we’ve got a lot of hockey. We’re a little behind with our schedule.

“Again, hopefully the guys do take it for what it’s worth and come back ready to go.”

Opposing View

Boston took the first matchup with the Penguins the day after Thanksgiving with a 4-3 victory at TD Garden. David Pastrnak potted the winner five minutes into the third on a breakaway.

Pittsburgh has been up and down since that meeting, posting a 10-9-0 record. The Pens are 5-5-0 over their last 10 and sit 1 point behind Carolina for the East’s second wild card spot.

Cassidy noted the two-time defending champions’ potent special teams as the focus for the B’s this evening. Pittsburgh is first in the league on the power play (25.8%) and 11th on the penalty kill (82.1%).

“Very good special teams. You think of their power play all the time, but their penalty kill is pretty good too,” said Cassidy. “If you can keep it to a 5-on-5 game it plays into our benefit because I think we’re very strong there, our special teams are good as well.

“We’re not going to shy away from that. I think that would be more to their strengths, so hopefully we have the discipline to stay out of the box, check with our feet, good sticks and see where it leads us.”

Question Mark Up Front

Bruce Cassidy said there is one question mark among the forward group, which will be a game-time decision. Cassidy did not specify which player he was referring to, but Ryan Spooner missed the second half of Saturday night’s third period.

“He went off. He missed probably the last 10 minutes. I have no update. I don’t know if I would keep him out of the lineup tomorrow,” Cassidy said following the win over the Hurricanes.

Pasta Snaps Skid

David Pastrnak snapped his 10-game scoreless streak on Saturday night with a one-time power-play blast off a feed from Patrice Bergeron. The 21-year-old winger also notched two assists.

“Obviously it’s nice,” said Pastrnak. “It was a good PP and good battles there and a nice play by Bergy, so it felt nice to get it in…I wasn’t thinking about it until you guys told me – I had no idea. Obviously it’s been a while, but those things happen and it’s normal. It was a lot of help that we were playing really good.”

Wait, There’s More

Tuukka Rask will make the start between the pipes. He is 11-0-1 over his last 12 games.
The Bruins held an optional pregame skate on Sunday morning. Bergeron and Spooner were among a small contingent that took the ice.
Boston’s five-goal first period against Carolina was their first such period since a five-goal third against Philadelphia in 2011.
Kevan Miller posted a plus-4 rating on Saturday night, while notching an assist on Riley Nash’s fifth of the year early in the first period. The blue liner was on the ice for three of Bergeron’s four goals.
Sean Kuraly won 10 of 11 faceoffs against the Hurricanes.

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Here are some things you can do in less than one whole second: blink, take a breath, snap your fingers and win a hockey game.

But that last thing, you can probably only do if you are Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli.

With just a fraction of a second remaining in overtime, Toffoli ripped a shot off of Anze Kopitar’s face-off win to beat the Boston Bruins, 2-1.

With the face-off set to take place in the Bruins zone, the Kings pulled their goalie in order to get four skaters on the ice during the 3-on-3 ovetime period. When Kopitar won the draw perfectly back to Toffoli, he unleashed a rocket that beat Bruins goalie Tukka Rask on his stick side.

The incredible goal, which happened in the literal blink of an eye, was upheld upon replay review.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vernon Fiddler is retiring from the NHL after playing 877 games over 14 seasons in the league with four different teams.

Fiddler announced his decision Wednesday in a story for The Players Tribune.
Vernon Fiddler returned to Nashville for the Predators’ Stanley Cup run. John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images
The 5-foot-11 center says he thought the New Jersey Devils would be his final team when he signed during the 2016 offseason. But, Fiddler wrote, Nashville general manager David Poile and Devils GM Ray Shero, who launched his professional career, worked out a trade sending him back to the Predators where he started in the NHL.

Fiddler says coming full circle was special with the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final a “perfect way to finish my career.”

He finished with 104 goals and 261 points and also played for the Coyotes and Dallas.