Tough one on tap vs. gritty Toronto

BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs arrive in Boston with a 11-4-0 record in their past 15 games, including a 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

The Bruins have lost their past two games, and even coach Claude Julien admitted after the team’s morning skate Thursday that there are many areas Boston needs to clean up as it prepares to host the Maple Leafs at 7:05 tonight at TD Garden.

Earlier this season, the Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 1-0 in Toronto, but it was soon after that game that the Leafs began their solid run.

“They’ve done a great job with that team,” Julien said. “The coaching staff, and you’ve got to give credit to a lot of people there because they are playing really well defensively and they’ve tightened up their game. Offensively, they’re still a skilled team, but they’re also doing the grunt work. They come at you hard.

“I’m one of those guys that believes they’re a legit contender -- no doubt about it. They play like one, and I’ve already told our guys, 'If you guys aren’t ready for a tough game tonight, then you’re making a big mistake.' "

Boston is 7-0-1 in its past eight games against the Maple Leafs, including wins in the past seven games against the Northeast Division opponent. This season, however, Toronto is playing a lot better than it did in 2011-2012.

“They have a whole new mentality over there,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “It’s a different group and it seems they have a lot of confidence right now.”

Anton Khudobin was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, meaning he probably will make the start against Toronto.

“It will be exciting and interesting because I’ve never played against Toronto,” Khudobin said. “If I’m playing, it’ll be fun.”

Boston’s past two losses have been devastating. The Bruins had a 3-2 lead in the third period at home against the Montreal Canadiens Sunday but lost 4-3. On Tuesday, Boston had a 3-0 lead before losing to the Washington Capitals 4-3 at Verizon Center.

“A win tonight would be nice,” Marchand said. “We know we have a lot of work to do ahead of us here and we’re obviously very upset with what happened, giving up leads in the third period both games. That’s not our team and we need to come out hard tonight, play our game, and prove we’re taking the right step forward.”