Julien knows Leafs will be a challenge

BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs come to town with a 4-0-1 record to start the 2011-2012 season, which is much different than the last time they skated on Garden ice.

When the Leafs were here on March 31 they were barely clinging onto hopes of reaching the playoffs, while the Bruins were about to embark on their Stanley Cup run. Boston lost to Toronto, 4-3, in a shootout that night, which was the same game Bruins forward Brad Marchand made his infamous golf swing gesture while skating by the Leafs bench.

Currently this season, both teams are playing different hockey.

“The one thing people have to realize is that team keeps improving every year and I know they’ve taken a lot of heat in the past and they’re getting better and better,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Their young players are developing and they’ve added some players who have fitted in well for their hockey club. They are a legit good hockey club.”

Julien watched Toronto’s shootout victory over Winnipeg Monday night and the Bruins’ coach noticed a difference in the Leafs ability to skate, move the puck, forecheck and play defensively.

“They are dangerous,” Julien said. “They have a lot of speed and skill up front. Their goaltending has been solid for them and I don’t see why anyone would take those guys lightly. If anything they are a team on the rise and it shows every year.”

Because the Bruins haven’t had the best of luck so far this season, Julien has tweaked his line combinations a few times, including this week partially due to a couple of injuries.

During Thursday’s morning skate, Julien had these offensive combinations:

Milan Lucic-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Nathan Horton

Jordan Caron-David Krejci/Rich Peverley-Benoit Pouliot

Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

“It’s certainly not panic,” Julien said. “It’s about trying to find solutions and helping those guys get out of a funk. They know that in the dressing room and it’s as simple as that. ‘Panic’ is not a word we would use right now and certainly don’t plan on using.”

Obviously Julien has his reasons to make the changes, especially with Horton on the line with Bergeron and Marchand.

“With those two guys who work hard, if (Horton) can get his skating game and tempo up and work the way he has in the past he’s going to find his game again,” Julien said.

“We’ve got some players who are still looking for their game and they realize their game is not there. I don’t think it’s a big secret if you look around the league a little bit and you look at other teams that made it far in the playoffs they’re struggling, too. We don’t want to look for excuses but I’m saying it’s real and players are trying to work their way out of it and it showed the other night. If they didn’t care they wouldn’t be frustrated and do the things they did. We’re really trying to work our way out of it and it’s just a matter of doing it the proper way.

“I just try to put a line together that will bring something to our team. That’s what I did with the three lines because the fourth line hasn’t changed. They are a line that has to get better as a threesome, but the other two lines everybody can bring something. We’re a group that thinks we have enough depth with three lines should be goal-scoring lines that should gives us an opportunity to score on a regular basis every night.”