Montreal, QC - On Tuesday, the Bruins hit the ice at the Bell Centre in Montreal in preparation for Part 1 of the always heated rivalry with the Canadiens on Wednesday night.
But prior to taking off for Montreal, Coach Julien talked to media back in Boston, and announced that two B's - Shawn Thornton and Dan Paille - would not be making the trip because they "can't play tomorrow." Coach did add that "we’re very optimistic that they’ll be okay moving forward here."
Meanwhile, Coach said that Brad Marchand "might" be available for tomorrow night, and the staff will "make a decision probably tomorrow in his situation."
Once the Bruins arrived at the Bell Centre, Marchand returned to the ice for the first time since leaving Saturday’s game in Toronto after colliding hard into the boards during the second period. No. 63 was back in his normal gold jersey with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin - though the second line had a fourth member today, as Gregory Campbell also remained in gold (the center had filled in on the wing Saturday night when Marchand left the game and wore the gold jersey at Monday’s practice).
If Marchand does not get the go-ahead for Wednesday night, Ryan Spooner would be filling in on the second line wing. Recalled from Providence Monday night, marking his first NHL regular season call-up, Spooner was wearing the merlot fourth line jersey - probably a good spot to ease the youngster into the group, alongside P-Bruins teammates Jamie Tardif and Lane MacDermid.
"There’s an adjustment there. You’re playing, you’re going into corners, and you’re dealing with stronger individuals, so it’s about learning the pro game," Coach Julien said on Spooner's transition from juniors to the pro game, and eventually, the NHL.
"But the one thing I saw [in Providence] is just the skill level is definitely one of the NHL. He can skate well and everything else, and some of the goals he scored were highlight goals, so there’s no doubt he’s on the right track, and I ‘d be very surprised not to see this guy play as a full time NHLer down the road."
Montreal Rolling Deep
There's a new look to this season's Montreal lineup in front of starting goaltender Carey Price. While the Habs boast veterans like captain Brian Gionta, along with a healthy Andrei Markov stabilizing the back end, the re-signed P.K. Subban, and a Max Pacioretty who recently rebounded from an appendectomy, they also have new, young players infused into the roster like Alex Galchenyuk and bigger bodies like Brandon Prust.
And it's that healthy depth at defense (one that has caused Tomas Kaberle to be a healthy scratch) - and the ability to roll four lines - that the B's ready to face.
"They’ve got some young players that have stepped into their lineup this year that have done a good job. I think, because of that, it’s given them some depth, and a four-line team, as well," Coach Julien told media Tuesday morning at TD Garden, prior to heading to Montreal. "That’s the key to the short season. We know that. We’ve talked about it enough, and the more players you can utilize from your bench the better it’s going to be."
"Being healthy for the moment, and with a new coach, new GM and everything else breathing some new life in there, they seem to have caught fire, and it’s going to be a good game for us," added Coach Julien. "It’s a battle for first place."
"No doubt they’ve added some bigger bodies, but their game is still the same," added Coach Julien. "It’s about speed. It’s about transition. It’s about their attack, and that hasn’t changed."
"They give us a tough game every year no matter where they are in the standings, and we know that they're a tough match for us.
"It’s a new team. I think they have a lot of talent, and had a great start - and obviously we’re aware of that," Patrice Bergeron said following practice at the Bell Centre. "We know it’s going to be a tough game. It’s always tough games against them in their building. We play well here, and we just need to be ready for them to drop the puck."
The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry in nothing new - and if anything, its historic roots help fuel the B's, especially in the atmosphere of the Bell Centre.
"It’s always fun. I mean, there’s so much history with the rivalry that comes from the days before I was in the league," said Bergeron, the Quebec native who finds himself in a slew of French interviews every time he plays in Montreal. "So to be part of it is something very special and something I take pride in. It’s always great games against them."
And for one Bruin - who only recently suited up in his first NHL game - the rivalry runs family deep.
"My dad always had the Bruins games on; he was a big, big Bruins fan. So was the rest of my family," Jamie Tardif told us on Monday following practice at Ristuccia.
"And then on the other side of the farm, you've got my grandfather and my other uncle are huge Canadiens fans. Family times were just crazy here."
As for Wednesday, it will be a "huge one" for the Tardif family. "My grandpa, I can pretty much bet the farm that he'll have his Canadiens hat, sitting in his La-Z-Boy downstairs like he always does watching the game there. My dad and my cousins are all big Bruins fans, so it'll be exciting."
Every Game's Important
The Bruins head into Wednesday with a 6-1-1 record for tops among the Eastern Conference with 13 points - but trailing them by only one point, the Habs sit at No. 2 wit 12 points and a 6-2-0 record on the season.
"They’re right behind us, but in a shortened season, division games are going to be that much more important, so I think going into tomorrow night, anytime you can take two points from a division rival, it’s going to be big," Rich Peverley told media prior to heading out to catch the bus to Logan Airport.
Just one prior, Chris Kelly had preached the same importance, noting that the schedule hasn't had much of an effect on him - if anything, the playoff nature of the games makes it more exciting.
"I love playing more than practicing," Kelly had said with a huge smile. ”That's just me. But playing every other day or back-to-back games is enjoyable. Everyone is going through it. It's not like it's one team or two teams that have this tough schedule. It's all 30 teams that are in the same boat."
"It's important to continue to play well," he added, on carrying over the excitement and tenacity from one game to the next. "I don't think you can have any lulls in the season, especially being a shortened season. In an 82-game schedule, most teams have a point in the year where things aren't going as well as they'd like. In the shortened season you can't really have that."
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