BOSTON, MA - The Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season Thursday night at TD Garden.
When Boston faced them for the first time on December in Montreal, it was Reilly Smith's first time at the Bell Centre, and first time experiencing the heated Original Six rivalry that has stretched 90 years, and over 700 games.
The forward found out right away what makes this game different than the others.
"It's not the toughest game to get up for," Smith said pregame, following the team's morning skate at TD Garden. "These rivalry games are good to test the team and it should be a pretty emotional game tonight. These rivalry games are huge and they'll come out with their best game, so we have to be expecting that."
"It's always a great matchup, an intense game but also a fun game to be part of," added Patrice Bergeron. "There are only five games before the break now and it's a good challenge for us to wind up on a good note, and we have to take it a game at a time, and tonight's one of them."
The Bruins are 5-0-1 in their past six games, and have won four straight, putting up six goals apiece in their past three wins. Meanwhile, the Habs just picked up a 3-0 win over Carolina to snap a four-game losing streak.
BostonBruins.com - For seven weeks, Chris Kelly remained positive.
"I'm still smiling," he would say, with a smile.
"You can see light at the end of the tunnel - that's what they keep telling me - so I'm going to go by what they're saying."
He finally reached that point on January 28 at TD Garden, when he made his return to the lineup in the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The alternate captain had missed 22 games.
Kelly had been skating for two weeks, and traveled with the Bruins on their recent road trip that saw them pick up a pair of six-goal wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders, but he had to watch from up top in the press box.
"It's always difficult, but you know, there was light at the end of the tunnel," he stressed. "And we had a plan in mind, going into the last few weeks."
"And it would have been nice to play but it was nice just being around the guys."
Injuries can be a lonely time. His return in the Bruins' 6-2 win over Florida, with another four-line offensive outburst, was anything but.
BOSTON, MA - Shawn Thornton may not always score goals, but when he does, they are often beauties.
On Tuesday night at TD Garden, with the Bruins leading 4-2 over the Florida Panthers in the third period, Thornton collected a quick pass from Gregory Campbell just before the blueline in front of the Boston bench.
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The winger then streaked down the left side, cut across the middle, won the battle along the right wing boards against the Panthers' Tom Gilbert and Tomas Kopecky. He threw a shoulder, protected the puck, worked himself free and walked the goal line.
He had his 'Merlot Line' linemate Daniel Paille at the goal mouth for a pass, but had room to walk the goal line, fake a shot on defenseman Brian Campbell, move to his backhand, get around one more Panther and roof it top shelf on former teammate Tim Thomas.
Paille's wide smile - and Thornton's - told it all.
"Honestly, on that goal, Piesy brought a lot of guys to him and created a lot of space for myself. Being on the back door, he was chirping me that I looked him off actually," laughed Thornton.
BOSTON, MA - It may sound like a broken record right now, but the Bruins would be happy for this record to stay in the same groove, and play over and over again.
On Tuesday night at TD Garden, they picked up their third straight six-goal win, this one coming in a 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers would push to reduce it to a two-goal deficit, but the Bruins pushed right back.
Shawn Thornton scored what would be deemed one of his best goals in Black & Gold, and David Krejci added a third-period goal off a takeaway top-shelf on Tim Thomas that drew out an extra spirited roar from the crowd. They knew what reaching half a dozen on the scoresheet meant.
Boston's 18 goals in their past three wins have come from 10 different scorers.
"I think everyone’s going. We haven’t really had any passengers from the goalie on out," Thornton said postgame. "I think there’s obviously been a few stretches here, five-ten minutes that we get away from it a little bit, but we regroup pretty quickly and get back to playing our style of game. I think that’s helped us have success for sure."
BOSTON, MA - Chris Kelly is set to make his return to the lineup against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night after missing 22 games.
He broke his right fibula (calf bone) on December 7. After more than seven weeks of recovery, the centerman is more than ready.
"I'm going to play tonight, and I'm excited, first game back in a while, it's almost like training camp again, it's an exciting time," he said a few hours before puck drop at TD Garden.
BostonBruins.com - The Bruins are not usually dialed in to upcoming offensive milestones. Often, they are informed after the fact.
They then take in the moment, and appreciate the accomplishment.
But when Zdeno Chara scored to put the Bruins up 6-3 over the New York Islanders Monday night on Long Island, recording his 500th NHL point in the process, there was a visible happiness from the always intense captain as he threw his arms up in the air.
"The win is obviously big. We knew we were facing a really good team, and a team that is battling for the playoffs, so they gave us basically a good challenge," Chara said following the win that gave the Bruins their third straight victory. "And we were very fortunate to score some goals and control the game at the end."
Chara's goal gave his team full control in the third period. Dougie Hamilton gave the puck to Brad Marchand, who did the work along the boards to maintain puck possession and feed it up to Chara at the right point.
The defenseman did the rest, wristing the puck on net, where it bounced off of goalie Kevin Poulin's blocker and in. Chara's fists pumped towards the rafters, as Marchand, Hamilton, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith all gathered 'round.
It was his 12th goal of the season, the 156th of his career, and point No. 500.
BostonBruins.com - While Chris Kelly is getting closer to his return to the lineup, that moment is not coming Monday night on Long Island.
The Bruins' game against the New York Islanders marks the centerman's 22nd out of the lineup, after recovering from his broken right fibula (calf bone) suffered back on December 7.
"He's not going to go tonight. We made that decision and I think as far as his injury is concerned, he's healed so probably a possibility for tomorrow [Tuesday]," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said on Monday morning, prior to facing the Isles.
Kelly has taken part in two practices with contact, and skated Monday morning during the team's optional skate at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Bruins' game in New York begins a back-to-back, with them next hosting the Florida Panthers Tuesday night at TD Garden, followed by the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers on Thursday and Saturday.
UNIONDALE, NY - The Bruins face the New York Islanders Monday night in the teams' third and final meeting of the season.
The previous two didn't go the Bruins' way. But the Black & Gold are in a much different position than they were for those matchups; they've found stability.
Back on November 2, the Bruins dropped a 3-1 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. They were marred in an an inconsistent stretch, and Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien wanted a higher compete level from his team.
When the Islanders visited TD Garden on New Year's Eve, the Bruins jumped out to a 3-1 lead, before New York powered back to a 5-3 win with four power-play goals.
"I just think we didn't come out and play well," said Julien, of a common thread between those games.
"I don't think we played our best against them and I think that's going to be the challenge, is to come out there and play our game, and come out and play the way we can play, and hopefully see a difference there in the outcome."
UNIONDALE, NY - As the Bruins were preparing to practice at the Nassau Coliseum Sunday afternoon on Long Island, Zdeno Chara would not be joining them on the ice.
"Maintenance day, day off for him," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "He's a big man, he needs some time off - in our minds, not in his mind, but in our minds - so every once in a while, we force him to stay off."
'Big Zee' has averaged 25:04 in ice time per game this season. He often slides over the boards for close to 29 shifts a game. That workload increases depending on the matchup, other defensemen in the Bruins' lineup, and situations on the ice.
He's only missed one game this season with an undisclosed injury.
The Captain likes being on the ice with his teammates.
"Ah, he's getting used to it now," smiled Julien, when asked if Chara fights the decision for him to rest his skating legs. "He hasn't won a fight yet so when I tell him to stay off, he's getting the message now."
The 20-year-old Hamilton, in his second NHL season, has still only played 76 career games, but is quickly becoming a "veteran" on the Bruins' less experienced back end since the loss of Dennis Seidenberg, and amidst injury woes for Adam McQuaid.
On Saturday in Philadelphia, Hamilton returned to the Bruins' lineup after missing four games while recovering from his first concussion. Boston skated to a 6-1 rout of the Flyers.
The defenseman logged 18:55 in ice time, spending 2:25 of that on the power play, getting three shots through and blocking two shots. He ended the game with a +1 rating.
But it's not Hamilton's stat line that matters.
"Well, there's a guy that has been with us now for a year, and he does have some experience," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, of the options Hamilton's return gives the blueline.
"He's really calm with the puck and makes good plays, moves the puck extremely well so it was good."