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Bruins notebook

As playoffs loom, Chris Wagner hits on a sore subject

The Bruins’ Chris Wagner usually has his hands full — in some manner of fashion — whenever he’s on the ice. Mark J. Terrill/Associated press/Associated Press

Brad Marchand had just 16 penalty minutes — and 56 points — in 39 second-half games. If he’s not wearing the black hat for the Black and Gold, who will?

“It could be Marsh,” teammate Chris Wagner said. “It’s always Marsh.”

While Boston’s agitator-in-chief might choose to keep that part of his game in semi-retirement, Wagner is a decent candidate to become a villain in Toronto in the first-round series that begins Thursday. The Maple Leafs were displeased at his open-ice run at Morgan Rielly on Dec. 8, a response to Zach Hyman’s blindside hit on Charlie McAvoy.

“I thought my hit was clean,” noted Wagner, who, unlike Hyman, was not suspended.

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One thing that’ll really irritate the Leafs: Wagner scoring a goal.

Not a typically a finisher, Wagner put a career-high 12 goals on the board this season. For a physical winger — he threw 253 hits last year, and 247 this year — Wagner generates plenty of chances.

According to Natural Stat Trick, Wagner finished ninth (two spots behind teammate Noel Acciari) in hits per 60 minutes among regulars (more than 700 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time). Of the top 25, only two players had a higher rate of individual scoring chances, and a higher expected goals rate than Wagner: Carolina’s Micheal Ferland and New Jersey’s Blake Coleman.

Coach Bruce Cassidy, who will use Acciari and Wagner with Joakim Nordstrom to start the series, wants Toronto’s defensemen, including Rielly (72 points, third among blueliners) to be checking over their shoulder. But he’d prefer his charges not run amok.

“If we chase hits that aren’t there, we’re going to be relying on our goaltender to bail us out with odd-man rushes, or we’re going to be digging the puck out of our net,” Cassidy said, adding that he plans to dress “our fastest lineup” to start the series, while energy is at its highest.

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“I think last year they got dragged into a bit of our game,” Cassidy said. “They have to play with pace, they have to play to their strengths.”

“For us, we’re comfortable in the skating game. I think we’ve proven that. When the battle level goes up, our guys are willing to accept that type of game. Guys are almost like, ‘Game on, let’s go. Let’s trade hits and see where it leads us.’ ”

Health in question

Cassidy played it safe when asked about a rumor that defenseman Kevan Miller (right knee) will miss the rest of the playoffs.

“Not to my knowledge,” Cassidy said Tuesday after the Bruins held day-off meetings in Brighton. “We got an update [Monday] that he would not start the series with us. Where that leads, I don’t know.

“All year, we’ve tried to be as upfront as possible. But this is the playoffs, so we’re going to keep things a little more in-house.”

Miller most recently skated last Thursday in Minnesota, when he crashed knee-first into the boards. His replacement for Game 1 could be either Steven Kampfer or Connor Clifton, both of whom would be making their playoff debut.

Fellow defenseman John Moore (upper body) could rejoin the team before Game 1, though it’s doubtful he would be ready to play that soon. Center Sean Kuraly (hand surgery) is tracking to return by the middle of the series.

Rask looks back

Tuukka Rask doesn’t have any ties to the organization that once considered him a future franchise goaltender.

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“I’ve got the draft jersey, that’s about it,” said Rask, selected 21st overall by Toronto in 2005. “I never spent a day there.”

Rask, the top-rated European netminder that locked-out season, didn’t attend the draft in Ottawa. Then-Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr., now with Boston as GM of AHL Providence, called him at home in Finland to tell him he was a Leaf.

That was the only contact Rask recalled having with the Leafs. At the next year’s draft, Ferguson, convinced young prospect Justin Pogge was better, flipped Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft.

Draft, with a chill

The Bruins, once again spectators for the NHL Draft lottery on tuesday, haven’t picked inside the top 10 since 2007. Zach Hamill, taken eighth overall that year, played 20 NHL games over three seasons, all with the Bruins. Now 30, Hamill has spent the last six years bouncing around Europe. Boston’s six draft picks in 2007 combined for 23 NHL games . . . Since 2000, Boston has had three of their own top-10 picks, including Phil Kessel (fifth overall, 2006), and Lars Jonsson (seventh, 2000). Kessel, of course, brought top-10 picks Tyler Seguin (second, 2010) and Dougie Hamilton (ninth, 2011) in a swap with the Leafs.


Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.