Bruins, Canadiens Set for Original Six Clash With First Place in Northeast Division at Stake

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Bruins, Canadiens Set for Original Six Clash With First Place in Northeast Division at Stake The Bruins will try to earn a split of their two-game road trip and a share of the Northeast Division lead as they close out their brief excursion away from the Garden with their first visit to Montreal this season.

Boston comes in weary from a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday, but the Habs won't be any more rested or in any better humor. The Canadiens also played on Wednesday, dropping a 5-3 decision to Philadelphia.

It's hard to believe the Flyers would ever do the Bruins any favors, but Philadelphia's win keeps the Bruins just two points behind Montreal in the battle for the top spot in the division. A victory on Thursday puts the Original Six rivals even at 38 points, and the Bruins still have two games in hand.

The Bruins won't be sharing the Northeast lead unless they put in a much more disciplined and consistent effort than they offered in Buffalo.

Tim Thomas is likely to return between the pipes after Tuukka Rask got the start against the Sabres. That would set up a potential showdown between two of the top netminders in the NHL this season, as Thomas leads in virtually every category with a 1.51 GAA, .954 save percentage and five shutouts, while Montreal's Carey Price had a 1.96 GAA and a .935 save percentage with four shutouts before giving up five goals to the Flyers on Wednesday.

When and Where

Boston Bruins (16-9-4, 36 points) at Montreal Canadiens (18-11-2, 38 points)
Dec. 16, 7 p.m. (NESN)
Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec

Notes

  • Veteran Bruins forward Mark Recchi played his 1,600th career game on Wednesday in Buffalo, becoming just the ninth player in NHL history to reach that milestone. Recchi, who will turn 43 on Feb. 1, is not showing signs of slowing down much, as he is fifth on the Bruins with 6-12-18 totals while playing in all 29 games this season.
  • Zdeno Chara's frustrations reached a boiling point with a postgame melee against the Sabres on Wednesday. Part of his frustration may stem from the fact that he has not scored in 16 games. His last goal was over a month ago, when he scored back on Nov. 11. The good news is that goal came against Montreal, so maybe he's due to snap the slump when he faces the Habs again.
  • Bruins prized rookie Tyler Seguin was a healthy scratch for the first time on Wednesday. There's sure to be plenty of second-guessing of that decision, much like there was in Montreal when talented young defenseman P.K. Subban was benched for three games earlier this month. Subban didn't score in his first two games back in the lineup, but he had a goal and an assist Wednesday against the Flyers.
  • The Bruins were fighting mad at the end of Wednesday's game, but don't expect many fights in Montreal on Thursday. The Canadiens have just eight fighting majors this season, with none in the last seven games and only three in the last 21 games. There were no fights in the first meeting between the ancient rivals this year and last year's six-game series produced just one unlikely bout between Blake Wheeler and Ryan O'Byrne, who is now with Colorado.

Outlook

The Bruins renew acquaintances with their oldest rival, playing in Montreal for the first time after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Habs at the Garden back on Nov. 11. The Bruins will have plenty of motivation as they try to get the bitter taste of Wednesday's disappointing effort in Buffalo out of their mouths and pull into a tie for first place in the Northeast Division. But Montreal will have the same incentives after losing to Philadelphia, so this should be an exciting and entertaining clash as it usually is when these rivals get together.

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