The Bruins are back in Montreal, the site of their last loss of the season.
That came back on Oct. 29, when a 4-2 setback dropped Boston to last place in the East at 3-7-0. It also appeared to finally wake the club up, as Boston has rattled off eight straight wins since. But Bruins coach Claude Julien isn't quite ready to send any thank yous to Boston's biggest rival for sparking the club's turnaround.
"I don't know if I want to give them that much credit," Julien told reporters after Monday's morning skate. "We had lost seven games at that point and won three, so I think it was more than the two losses [to Montreal]. It was more about understanding where we were."
Going into Monday's rematch at the Bell Centre, the Bruins are in a much different place. They are now 11-7-0 and back in a playoff spot in seventh place in the East. But they are also just one point ahead of the Canadiens (9-8-3) and will be facing a red-hot goalie in Carey Price, who was named the NHL's First Star of the Week for this past week.
Price is expected to get the start in goal on Monday and is coming off back-to-back shutouts of Carolina and the New York Rangers. Price is 8-6-3 with a 2.16 GAA and .917 save percentage this season, and has been even better against the Bruins over the course of his career (15-4-2, 2.60 GAA, .918 save percentage).
Price will have a very young and inexperienced defense in front of him though, with veterans Andrei Markov (knee), Jaroslav Spacek (upper body), Chris Campoli (lower body) and Hal Gill (infection) all out. That leaves a Montreal blue line with just one member having played more than 100 games in the NHL.
Josh Gorges has logged 384 games in the league, while P.K. Subban has played 99. Rounding out the Habs defense will be Yannick Weber (69 games), Raphael Diaz (20 games), Alexei Emelin (12 games) and Frederic St. Denis (3 games).
Montreal is also without forwards Andrei Kostitsyn, Andreas Engqvist and Ryan White, who are each sidelined with lower-body injuries.
The Bruins are fully healthy and not expected to make any lineup changes after Saturday's 6-0 win over the Islanders. That would keep Steven Kampfer and Jordan Caron as the healthy scratches. With Caron remaining out, Benoit Pouliot will return to the Bell Centre to face his former team for the first time. Pouliot played against the Canadiens in the Garden last month, but did not make the trip to Montreal two days later after being sidelined with an illness.
Pouliot had no points and was a minus-3 in eight games before that illness, but has two goals and is a plus-4 in five games since returning to the lineup. He didn't have a point in Saturday's win, but had three shots and was a plus-2 in a solid effort.
"To me, his last game was probably his best game," Julien said of Pouliot. "That means he's getting better. It's encouraging for us to see that. He's starting to show some of the things that we saw in him and he just has to continue doing that."
Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate and is expected to get the start. Like Price, Thomas is coming off a shutout and has been impressive once again this year with an 8-4-0 record, 1.91 GAA and .932 save percentage. Unlike Price, Thomas hasn't had as much success against his team's archrival, with a 10-15-4 record, 3.01 GAA and .907 save percentage against Montreal.
Wes McCauley and Dean Morton will be the referees, with Jonny Murray and Michal Cormier working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Jordan Caron, Steven Kampfer
Projected Canadiens lines
Michael Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Erik Cole
Lars Eller-Scott Gomez-Travis Moen-Lars Eller
Mathieu Darche-Petteri Nokelainen-Aaron Palushaj
Josh Gorges-P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin-Raphael Diaz
Frederic St. Denis-Yannick Weber
Scratches: Jaroslav Spacek (lower body), Hal Gill (infection), Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body), Andreas Engqvist (lower body)