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Thoughts and shots on a Sunday off before the Bruins start a week that includes the Devils on the road (Tuesday), and home games against the Sabres (Thursday) and Wild (Saturday) . . .

■  By Thursday, the first-place Bruins (12-3-5) will have seen every team in the Atlantic Division. Results have been mixed.

They lost to Tampa in a shootout, took two of three against Toronto, trounced Ottawa, lost in a shootout to Florida, and dropped a stinker in Detroit. If they had gotten a call to go their way, they might have left Montreal with a win.

A 3-2-3 record against Atlantic teams looks pedestrian, as does a 1-2-3 record in their previous six, but the Bruins are built as well as any team in the league. They can also take a measure of solace in the fact that one of their chief competitors for Atlantic supremacy is floundering.

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Toronto looks terrible. No reason to sugarcoat in these pages. The Maple Leafs were hammered, 6-1, in Pittsburgh on Saturday for their fourth straight loss. It was a miserable effort by a team that looks ready to make changes.

Only six teams have a worse points percentage than the Leafs, who have 22 points in 22 games (9-9-4). They can score (71 goals, fifth) but only Detroit (82) has allowed more goals than Toronto’s 77.

“In the locker room,” Auston Matthews told reporters Saturday, “confidence isn’t exactly high right now.”

The same could be said for the Sabres, who beat the Senators on Saturday to improve to 10-6-3 — and then lost Sunday night in Chicago, 4-1. The Sabres opened the year 9-2-1, but were 0-4-2 in the six games after that.

■  Without Anders Bjork tangling with Capitals defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler in front, Danton Heinen likely wouldn’t have had room to sneak a centering feed to Charlie Coyle for the 1-0 goal on Saturday. Bjork has acquitted himself well (3-1—4 in 12 games), skating on the No. 2 line in the last two games. With David Krejci taking Patrice Bergeron’s spot Saturday, the speedy Notre Damer rode with the savvier Coyle and Heinen.

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“It was awesome playing with those guys,” said Bjork, who logged a season-high 16:29 against Toronto and played 15:35 against Washington. “I think I did a pretty good job supporting them and trying to enhance their strengths. I think I can improve on that as well, especially plays like on the forecheck, I think I can get in there and open space for them to make more plays.”

■  Bjork took a shift with the No. 2 power-play unit, as did fellow youngster Urho Vaakanainen. That’s because Matt Grzelcyk, Heinen, and Krejci were needed on the No. 1 grouping. This is not ideal.

The Bruins had the league’s top power play before Torey Krug’s injury, but have slipped to third (28.1 percent), behind Edmonton and Tampa, without three-fifths of their setup. They haven’t scored in their last two games (0 for 5) and are 1 for 9 in their last four, all without quarterback Krug.

Krug and Bergeron could return Tuesday, but it’s unclear how long Jake DeBrusk (lower body) may be out.

■  Coach Bruce Cassidy is seeing Vaakanainen’s confidence grow. The rookie was trusted with an overtime shift, and danced around Jakub Vrana to put a backhand stuff on net. He logged 19:19 in total, landing one shot and two hits.

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“Doesn’t win every battle, doesn’t always make the right play, but we need to see a compete level out of him; that’s first and foremost,” Cassidy said. “It’s a second-effort league. You’ve got to win pucks; you’ve got to win races, hopefully both. We’re seeing that out of Vaak.

“Now it’s up to us to get him into good spots to excel and coach him up on position and some of the players in the league, but yes, I am. I’m seeing him skate a little more. I think he’s got some of that in him. He’s not a guy that we’re going to assume will be a Torey Krug type, but we do believe he’s a guy that can contribute — a secondary offense guy, and we’re starting to see some of that.”

■  We didn’t see a Lars Eller-Brad Marchand rematch Saturday, but Marchand got into it with Tom Wilson.

Late in the first, Wilson and Marchand jawed at each other before, during, and after a shift, an official stepping between the top-line wingers several times. The strife began after Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny elbowed Marchand after the whistle. Marchand returned with a facewash. Wilson, the 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound battleship, rumbled over and nearly stapled Marchand to the boards, but the 5-9 winger ducked out of the way.

Wilson, on a short list of the nastiest players in the league, has top-line production to boot (8-9—17). He steamrolled Chris Wagner in the third period, drawing a response from Charlie McAvoy.

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“I was [later] told it was a clean hit,” said McAvoy, who said his reaction was “just emotional.”


Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.