Carrick returns to Maple Leafs lineup for showdown with Bruins

Montreal swept the Senators in a home-and-home, the Flames stayed hot and Sidney Crosby brought out the hats.

TORONTO – The Maple Leafs’ increasingly wobbly defence will get some help in a big showdown against the Bruins on Monday night.

Connor Carrick returns from an 11-game absence due to an upper-body injury, set to join Morgan Rielly as Toronto tries to track down Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Leafs (79 points) can pull to within one point of the Bruins (82) with a regulation victory at Air Canada Centre. They’ve beaten their original-six foe in all three meetings so far this season, including a 6-5 win in Boston in early February.

Toronto, with a game in hand on Boston, is currently holding down the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Nazem Kadri said the club had their eyes all over the standings.

"Look up, look down, sideways — it don’t matter, we’re looking all over the place," Kadri said of the playoff chase. "We’re trying to catch teams above us and we’re aware of teams that are right on our heels so we’ve got to separate ourselves and try to catch teams above us."

The Leafs enter Monday’s action only one point up on the New York Islanders (78) and two ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning (77).

Injured on Feb. 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.

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