No regular season game may be bigger than tonight’s matchup at the TD Garden. The Bruins (30-16-7) put their slim Northeast Division lead on the line tonight against Original Six rival, the Montreal Canadiens (30-19-5).
Montreal is really the only thorn in Boston’s side this season, with the Habs winning all three previous meetings. The Canadiens sit just two points behind the B’s for the top spot in the division, meaning a regulation win for Montreal would knot the two teams with 67 points each. Boston does have a one game in hand on Montreal.
Plenty to get to before they drop the puck on this one, so let’s get right to tonight’s pre-game notes…
- Beyond their three-game win streak over Boston, Montreal has won their last four games at TD Garden, dating back to their season road sweep last year. Overall, the Habs are 8-1-0 in their last nine games vs. Boston.
- Both teams enter tonight’s battle coming off losses over the weekend that snapped three-game win streaks. The Bruins, having beaten Florida, Carolina, and Dallas in their previous three contests, were shut out on home ice Saturday afternoon by former Bruin Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks. Montreal also had their three-game win streak brought to an end over the weekend, falling to the red-hot New Jersey Devils Sunday, 4-1.
- The Bruins haven’t played since Saturday, but have made news on and off the ice during their three-day break. Monday, the team made it official, announcing that center Marc Savard has been placed on long-term injured reserve, ending the veteran’s season. With Savard sidelined, the team now can exceed the league’s salary cap by Savard’s $4.007 million annual salary. Couple that with the approx. $500,000 the team had in cap space to begin with, and GM Peter Chiarelli has a good chunk of change to use before the league’s February 28th trade deadline. Plenty of trade rumors have already been swirling, but the possibilities are endless now that the B’s have some cap flexibility.
- As some added insurance, the B’s recalled forward Jordan Caron from Providence, soon after announcing Savard’s season is over and done with. Caron spent the first 20 games of the season with the big club, putting in three goals and adding four assists before being sent down to Providence in early December. For the Baby B’s, the winger has six goals and 11 assists in 27 games. Caron will skate on the Bruins’ fourth line tonight with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
- Zach Hamill will get the nod tonight as the team’s third line center, between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, leaving rookie Tyler Seguin as the team’s healthy scratch tonight. This will be the second game that Seguin will watch from the sidelines this year. Defenseman Mark Stuart is also expected to be a healthy scratch this evening.
- The B’s had a big scare at Tuesday’s full practice, when the team’s leading point man, Patrice Bergeron, left the ice doubled over in pain after taking a puck to the face. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk flipped the puck off the glass only for it to awkwardly hit a stanchion and take an odd turn, ultimately hitting Bergeron’s chin. Bergeron was taken to the hospital for precautions, but thankfully the center just needed a few stitches, with no broken bones detected. Bergeron is expected to be in the lineup tonight.
- Turning our attention to the Canadiens now, the Habs have battled through several injuries to key players this season and are just now starting to get healthy. Defenseman James Wisniewski has missed the team’s last two games battling strep throat but is expected to return to the ice tonight. Forward Mike Cammalleri, sidelined with a shoulder injury, won’t play this evening, but is expected to rejoin the team’s practices later this week. Defenseman Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are both still out with knee injuries, with no return imminent.
- Wisniewski (5G, 29A) and Cammalleri (13G, 18A) rank right behind the team’s top point man, center Tomas Plekanec (18G, 25A). No other Canadien has more than 30 points this season.
- Goaltending for Montreal is led by All Star Carey Price (26-17-5, 2.32GAA). Price is backed up by former Bruin netminder, Alex Auld (4-2-0, 2.17GAA).
- Lastly, both squads will look to snap lenghty powerless streaks on the man-advantage tonight… Montreal is 0-for-22 in their last five games, while the B’s are just 1-for-18 since Marc Savard went down against Colorado, back on January 22nd.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Carey Price, Jordan Caron, Marc Savard, Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Zach Hamill