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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Canadiens, Thursday March 24th

There’s a slightly important hockey game happening at the TD Garden this evening… you may have already heard about it.

Tonight, the sixth and final meeting of two storied rivals hits Causeway Street with Northeast Division supremacy lying in the balance, as the Bruins (40-22-10) host the hated Montreal Canadiens (40-27-7).

There sure is plenty of hype heading into this title bout, and justifiably so. It was just 16 days ago that these two teams did battle north of the border in a game highlighted by Zdeno Chara’s questionable, but not suspendable, hit on Max Pacioretty that sent the young forward flopping to the ice with a concussion and broken vertebra in his neck. The play has launched all sorts of pomp and circumstance, especially among Habs fans, who were prompted to get the authorities involved. The case against Chara is still pending, for those who still care.

What we do care about is playoff positioning for our Black & Gold boys, which this game has heavy ramifications toward. Boston has a three-point edge over Montreal atop the Northeast Division, with two games in hand on the Habs. Montreal currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and with the B’s in the three-spot right now, these two bitter rivals would be staring at a first round playoff series if the playoffs started today.

Until then though, we get to sit back and enjoy the final regular season meeting of these two combatants this evening. Let’s get you ready for the game with some pre-game notes…

  • As I said above, tonight marks the sixth and final meeting between the B’s and Canadiens, with Boston posting a disappointing 1-3-1 mark against the bleu, blanc, et rouge this season. Montreal beat Boston in their last meeting, 4-1 at the Bell Centre, earlier this month.
  • The B’s are coming off a 4-1 win over the Devils Tuesday at the Garden, in a game that featured a three-point night from captain Zdeno Chara and the 30th goal of the season for winger Milan Lucic. Lucic became the first Bruin to reach the 30-goal mark in a season since Phil Kessel notched 36 goals two seasons ago.
  • Montreal was blanked on their own home ice by Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres, falling 2-0 at the Bell Centre Tuesday night. The Habs have just eight games remaining heading into tonight’s game in Boston.
  • TSN’s Darren Dreger reported yesterday that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with both teams’ general managers, Peter Chiarelli and Pierre Gauthier, last week regarding tonight’s matchup. Saying all the right things, both teams are focused on the two points they plan to earn with a win tonight, so it remains to be seen how chippy and physical the play gets this evening. The NHL has assigned veteran referees to the game, and the head of NHL officiating will be in the building with a close eye on the action.
  • Mark Recchi stirred the pot yesterday with some comments made about the Chara-Pacioretty saga on 98.5FM The Sports Hub. Recchi said he thought that the Canadiens may have “embellished” the severity of Pacioretty’s injuries in order to increase the likelihood of a punishment to Chara, citing reports that Pacioretty had been to the movies just a day or two after supposedly sustaining a concussion. Recchi’s comments have certainly raised the eyebrows of the Habs’ fans and players, with Montreal forward Mike Cammalleri noting that Recchi is “a guy who has been around a long time, but I’m not sure he has a medical degree yet.”
  • Montreal’s leading scorer, Thomas Plekanec, has missed the last four games dealing with a lower-body injury, but may return to the lineup this evening. Plekanec has 21 goals and 32 assists to his credit this season. Behind Plekanec on the Montreal stat sheet are defenseman James Wisniewski (10G, 37A), and a threesome of Habs knotted at 41 points a piece; Andrei Kostitsyn (19G, 22A), Mike Cammalleri (16G, 25A), and captain Brian Gionta (26G, 15A), who has five goals in the five games against Boston this season.
  • Another Canadien with some scoring punch is rookie defenseman, P.K. Subban. On Sunday, during an 8-1 rout of the Minnesota Wild, Subban became the first rookie defenseman in league history to record a hat trick. Subban has four goals total in his last three contests.
  • Montreal’s goaltending is handled by the tandem of Carey Price (34-25-6, 2.35GAA) and former Bruin, Alex Auld (6-2-1, 2.39). Price, the likely starter this evening, is tied for the league lead in wins and ranks second behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lunqvist in shutouts, with eight.

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