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One of the best rivalries in the NHL heats up north of the border this evening, as the Bruins (38-19-8) travel to Montreal to take on the hated Canadiens (36-23-7).
It was just 27 days ago when the B’s and Habs last met in a game many are still talking about. 182 penalty minutes, five fights, and 14 goals later, Boston topped Montreal 8-6, winning their first game over the Habs in their last five tries, dating back to last season. With points at a premium coming down the stretch, something tells me tonight’s focus won’t be on fisticuffs this time around, with both teams looking to just come out of tonight’s battle with two much-needed points to add to the standings.
It’s never boring when these two Original Six hockey clubs get together, and tonight’s matchup is sure to excite the masses. Let’s get you hyped up for tonight’s Bell Centre battle with some pre-game notes…
Tonight marks the fifth of six meetings between these division rivals, with Boston at 1-2-1 vs. the Habs this season. The teams will wrap up their season series later this month when Montreal returns to TD Garden on the 24th.
The Bruins sit in a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference, at 84 points, knotted with Southeast Division leading Washington. Boston is just two points behind Philadelphia for the East’s top spot. The Flyers host the lowly Edmonton Oilers tonight, but if they somehow lose and the B’s can beat the Canadiens, the Black and Gold will have a share of the East’s #1 seed. As for the Northeast Division, Boston enjoys a five-point advantage over Montreal, with a game in hand over the “bleu, blanc, et rouge.”
Montreal, after losing seven of nine, has now won four straight, including going a perfect 3-0-0 on their recent road trip. The Habs are coming off an impressive 4-2 win Saturday night over the now slumping Tampa Bay Lightning. As for Boston, the B’s have earned at least a point in their last eight games, going 7-0-1 on that stretch. They had their season-long seven-game win streak snapped Saturday night at home, losing 3-2 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After missing Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh, center Patrice Bergeron will rejoin the lineup this evening. Bergeron missed his first game of the season to be with his family in Canada, as they mourned the loss of his grandmother. His linemate, Mark Recchi, also missed some time for personal matters, skipping out on yesterday’s full team practice in Wilmington. Head coach Claude Julien has confirmed that Recchi will be available for tonight’s game in Montreal.
Two Bruins who won’t be available tonight are defensemen Andrew Ference and Steven Kampfer. Ference was supposed to return to the ice yesterday, after dealing with a lower-body injury, but is still dealing with some discomfort. He could try again in the next day or two. As for Kampfer, the rookie is still experiencing headaches as a result of his recent concussion. Both blueliners did not travel with the team. As a result, youngster Matt Bartkowski will crack the lineup for the fourth time this season. This will be the first time Bartkowski does not face the Penguins, having played against Pittsburgh in his previous three appearances.
Flipping over to the Canadiens, Montreal’s star goaltender Carey Price was named Third Star of the Week last week in the NHL, winning every game he appeared in. Price (31-21-6, 2.34GAA) has started all but 10 of the Habs’ games this season and is closing in on giving B’s goalie Tim Thomas a challenge for this year’s Vezina Trophy. Price is backed up by former Bruin netminder, Alex Auld (5-2-1, 2.61GAA).
Scoring for the Habs is led by center Tomas Plekanec (20G, 31A), followed by recently acquired defenseman, James Wisniewski (7G, 35A). Winger Andrei Kostitsyn (16G, 21A) ranks third on the team in points, followed by the team’s leading goal scorer and captain, Brian Gionta (23G, 12A). Gionta has one goal in each of the four previous meetings with Boston. Another Bruins killer this season is forward Max Pacioretty, who has scored four of his ten goals on the year against the B’s.
Tags: Alex Auld, Andrei Kostitsyn, Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Brian Gionta, Carey Price, James Wisniewski, Mark Recchi, Matt Bartkowski, Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, Patrice Bergeron, Steven Kampfer, Tomas Plekanec