Maple Leafs' Connor Carrick hoping to return Monday

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David Backes was a bit under the weather Monday morning in Toronto, and missed the Bruins' morning skate ahead of their pivotal matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Injured on February 21 against Winnipeg, Carrick should offer some stability to a Leafs defence that head coach Mike Babcock has been shuffling around warily in recent weeks.

"Carrick gets the puck moving, doesn't play a lot in his own zone, he's mean, he likes to cross-check people", Babcock said Sunday.

"You have to be dialled in and it's my job as a pro to know that". They last time they beat the Bruins in every game, they were known as the St. Patrick's. Two things that Toronto has going for are home ice advantage and Frederik Andersen's recent excellent play. "I don't think anybody is looking to make an excuse for me or any athlete that is out for a while".

The relevance is Monday's visit by Boston, a game with potential major impact in the final Atlantic Division standings. Win in regulation and the Leafs are within a point of the Bruins for third in the division; lose and it's back to scrapping for the last wild-card spot, which Toronto holds by one. Neither the Isles nor the Lightning play on Monday.

The Leafs have beaten the Bruins in all three of the previous meetings between the clubs this season, and another victory would put the Leafs one point back of the Bruins. One-time Toronto prospect Tuukka Rask, who is 15-4-2 with a.927 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average versus the Leafs, will start in the Bruins goal.

Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Jake Gardiner, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov were among those with heads lowered at TD Garden on May 13, 2013, a 4-1 late lead that became a 5-4 OT loss.

Alexey Marchenko will exit the lineup with Carrick returning, Roman Polak sliding back to play from frequent duties alongside Rielly to play with fellow veteran Matt Hunwick.

The hottest players on both teams, with Marchand battling for the National Hockey League scoring lead and Andersen the backbone of the Leafs achieving points in nine of the past 12 games he has been in.

In Backes' place at the team's morning skate alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand was Jimmy Hayes. "It's just how the game goes".

Babcock said nothing ought to be read into the Leafs' success against Boston this season. Every game has been tight. "We need to make sure we think about this Toronto game first and then go from there".

Overall, the Bruins are 12-4-0 since Bruce Cassidy took over as interim head coach when Claude Julien was sacked on February 7. That has been our biggest issue. "That will be our No. 1 focus".

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