BOSTON — The Bruins canceled their morning skate on Thursday, choosing to stay away from the media circus to focus on what is a monumental game against Montreal at the Garden.
Both sides are dismissing expectations of retribution for Zdeno Chara's hit on Max Pacioretty and are instead focusing on the two points on the line with Boston and Montreal battling for first place in the Northeast Division.
"The ultimate revenge is winning and trying to catch your opponents in the standings," Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think that [the Canadiens] are a determined group to do that."
The Bruins are equally determined not to let the Habs cut into their three-point lead in the division.
"We're here to play hockey, that's all there is to it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "This he-said, she-said soap opera, I'm not interested in answering those kind of questions because in two hours, there's a big game to be played and it's a big two points for both teams. That's what my focus in on right now."
To that end, Julien stated that he doesn't expect to make any lineup changes from Tuesday's 4-1 win over New Jersey. That would leave Daniel Paille, Steven Kampfer and Shane Hnidy as the scratches. How the team lines up could be in flux a bit, though. On Tuesday, Brad Marchand returned from a two-game suspension and split his time between the fourth line with Greg Campbell and Shawn Thornton and the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, with Michael Ryder also rotating between those lines. The same kind of movement between the lines could happen on Thursday.
"We'll see how the game goes," Julien said. "The goal here is to utilize those guys in the best possible areas. He certainly gives that Campbell line a real good boost when he's on it and also we know how good he can be. And when Michael Ryder is playing the way he can, he can be a valuable player for us. A lot of those things will depend on those players' play. If those players play well in their position, they're going to stay there. If not, we're going to move them around."
The Canadiens are battling plenty of injuries outside of Pacioretty. Defensemen Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Jaroslav Spacek are all out with knee injuries, with Markov and Gorges done for the season. Fellow blueliner Brent Sopel is day to day with a hand injury, while forwards Tomas Plekanec (lower body), Jeff Halpern (lower body) and Mathieu Darche (groin) are all day to day as well.
But Montreal did send forwards Nigel Dawes and Andreas Engqvist back to their AHL affiliate in Hamilton on Thursday afternoon. That would indicate at least two of the injured forwards are ready to return for this one. Plekanec, Halpern, Darche and Sopel all skated Thursday morning, with Darche expected to play, as well as either Plekanec or Halpern.
With no morning skate, there was no indication of who will start in goal for the Bruins, but Tim Thomas is the likely choice after his strong showing on Tuesday. Carey Price is expected in net for Montreal, bringing a 13-3-2 record against the Bruins, including 4-1-0 this season.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi
Rich Peverley-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Michael Ryder-Greg Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Tomas Kaberle- Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Daniel Paille, Steven Kampfer, Shane Hnidy
Projected Canadiens lines
Travis Moen-Scott Gomez-Brian Gionta
Michael Cammalleri-Lars Eller-Andrei Kostitsyn
Benoit Pouliot-David Desharnais-Ryan White
Mathieu Darche-Jeff Halpern-Tom Pyatt
Romas Hamrlik-James Wisniewski
Hal Gill-P.K. Subban
Paul Mara-Alexandre Picard
Scratches: Tomas Plekanec, Brent Sopel, Yannick Weber