Bruins’ Marchand returns, talks Babcock, ‘poking’ Matthews tweet

Chris Johnson and Nikki Reyes report that Leafs' Auston Matthews will miss his second straight game, but Babcock will not adjust the lines entering back-to-back against the Boston Bruins.

TORONTO – The Boston Bruins will get their most dangerous offensive player back in the lineup, while the Toronto Maple Leafs must continue to survive without theirs.

Brad Marchand, who missed two games with a concussion, will take to the ice Friday at Air Canada Centre. Toronto’s Auston Matthews, however, remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

"He does a lot of damage for that team, but they still have a lot of weapons," Marchand said. "[Nazem] Kadri’s been good the last couple years. Obviously, [William] Nylander, [Tyler] Bozak, [Morgan] Rielly on the back end. [Patrick] Marleau coming in—that’s a huge veteran presence. Regardless of who they’re missing, they’re a dangerous team."

Marchand finished top-five in NHL scoring in 2016-17 and had picked up where he left off this fall, scoring eight goals and 14 points through 12 games before getting removed from Saturday’s loss versus Washington.

"The last few days I’ve felt good and decided to come back," said Marchand.

"Every time you don’t take care of the puck, [Toronto] can capitalize on it. Especially here, they really thrive off the momentum. When they get going, they’re really hard to play against. A lot of dangerous young players. They’re a tough team to play the last couple years, and we expect a really hard game tonight."

Marchand rejoins Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on one of hockey’s most explosive lines. Kadri, Leo Komarov and Nylander—a close friend of Pastrnak’s—will be charged with shutting them down.

Marchand became familiar with Toronto coach Mike Babcock when the two men won Olympic and World Cup gold together.

"It’s not easy playing for him. He demands a lot. He expects his players to be very good, but he brings the best out of them," Marchand said of the Leafs. "You see how this team’s changed around the last couple years. They’re only going to get better with time."

Fellow forward Noel Acciari, who’s been limited to just one game this season after breaking a finger, also draws back into Boston’s injury-riddled roster.

"Noel’s a little underappreciated—not from our standpoint but around the hockey world. He’s a hardnosed guy who can set the tempo for us physically. With [David] Backes out, his presence is welcomed back," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

"Marchy’s one of our best players, one of the best players in the National Hockey League. Always great to have him back."

Unfortunately, fans won’t get to see Marchand and Matthews head-to-head in their clubs’ first meeting since the former trolled this city’s media with a slick compliment on Twitter:

"Poking? I don’t do that, do I? Never," said Marchand, with a smirk.

"It’s unbelievable how something gets blown up here. He’s made some impressive plays this year, so you gotta give the kid credit. I didn’t expect it to blow up the way it did. The media likes to have a lot of fun."

So does Marchand.

We asked 21-year-old sniper Pastrnak to specify one thing he’s learned from game’s most notorious disturber.

"Trash talk," replied the Czech star. "All players think they’re going to get him on his nose, but that’ll never work. He don’t care about it, and he always has an answer for you."

The Maple Leafs’ must come up with an answer for Matthews’ absence in an important divisional back-to-back.

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Goaltender Frederik Andersen’s 35-save performance did the trick Wednesday against Minnesota, but Toronto was sorely outplayed and will be looking for a better team effort with their MVP on the sidelines.

"We have to make sure we keep winning games as long as he’s out. I’m sure he wants to get playing with us, but you have to take care of yourself," said Mitch Marner, who is stuck in a 16-game goal drought.

"I think people hold it in pretty well, but every hockey player gets frustrated when they’re injured and not playing hockey games and can’t help their team win. He’s probably just getting ready to come back soon, and when he gets back, he’ll be looking to get back on that hot roll he was on."