MONTREAL, QC - It’s the fourth and final meeting between the rival Bruins and Canadiens this year - and there's no better time for the top spot in the Northeast to be on the line, yet again, as we head into the final quarter of the season.
“Well, I have to wait and see. I heard it’s pretty good,” Jaromir Jagr smiled, as he talked to reporters this morning about the Boston-Montreal rivalry.
“It’s always good for hockey, and especially this year, with both teams are playing really well. And It’s a game for first place, so it’s going to be even more interesting for everybody.”
"Any time that you have the kind of emphasis that's on the game tonight, it's great for both teams," said Coach Julien, on the one point that separates the teams heading into tonight (Bruins with 52 to the Canadiens' 53).
"For us, it's always been a great challenge to play the Canadiens, also a great rivalry. When you look at the game of hockey, what you're trying to do is entertain fans, and this is a great rivalry here that certainly entertains and gets fans excited.
Prior to the match-up, the Bruins held a well-attended “optional” skate at the Bell Centre this morning, with only Andrew Ference staying off the ice. Chris Kelly did join the B’s for the second straight day, but stayed on for extra work with the assistant coaches and Wade Redden after the rest of the Bruins exited the ice.
Coach held his media availability right at the start of the 11:30 a.m. pregame skate, and said that Kelly had not yet graduated to “game-time decision” and was still “day-to-day.” Once the center exited the ice, he confirmed to media that he would not be in the lineup tonight.
With Redden staying on for extra time, it appears the back end will remain the same heading into tonight against Montreal. Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off, as Anton Khudobin stayed on for extra time, so it looks like No. 40 will get the start (though the starting goaltender was not confirmed by Coach).
As such, here is the projected lineup for tonight:
Stepping Up for Bergy
The Bruins have been without defenseman Adam McQuaid and center Chris Kelly for some time, and with the recent hit they've taken with Patrice Bergeron out indefinitely, they've lost another key member of their roster from the lineup, a leader on and off the ice who also happens to be the NHL's faceoff leader.
"Yeah, it's tough, you can't really fill a hole for a guy like Bergy," said Bergeron's usual left winger, Brad Marchand. "He's such a good player, he does so many different things, but I think if everyone just tries to pick it up a little bit and works a little harder hopefully, as a team, collectively, then we can still contribute a win."
And with Bergeron out (along with Kelly), the B's have had to band together and step up, especially on faceoffs, to regain their puck possession game that stems from No. 37's talents on the dot. Tyler Seguin, who has only had one game to adjust to the new role at center in the NHL, will be looking to pick up his luck on the draw, after only winning 3-of-12 Thursday night - and the other four skaters alongside him could offer support in that regard.
"Bergy's one of the best faceoff guys in the league, if not the best. Lose a guy like that, it's tough," acknowledged Marchand. "Seggy's very good still, on draws. He didn't do as good last game as he would've liked, but it just means that me and Jags are going to have to jump in and kind of help him out. Whether he ties up and we jump in on a loose puck or what not. We all to have to help out in that area."
Slowing Down the Shot Counter
It's been an anomaly the past two games to see the Bruins giving up more than 30 shots from the opposition, allowing 40 in the 1-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, and 47 shots two days before in the 3-2 win over Ottawa. Despite allowing so many in on their goaltenders, the B's haven't been giving up too many scoring chances, but will still be looking to clean up that area of their game.
"There's got to be a reason for us giving up that many, so we just have to do a better job with our back pressure, not give them much time going down the wall," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg following Saturday's morning skate in Montreal. Whether it's a on the backcheck, you don't want to risk giving up a bad rebound. We just have to do a better job overall."
"We haven't really played our best defensive game, but tonight's a good test for us to get back on track and play a tighter defensive game and not give up as many shots. We're all excited and hopefully we'll play our A-game."
"Some of those are bad line changes, but a lot of things are a a result of New Jersey shooting from everywhere," Coach said following Friday's practice, when asked about the upswing in allowed shots. "We've been through some of that stuff in the past, where shots come from the outside, certainly not a dangerous area. But when you've got two games of that amount there's some concern. I think we can be a little bit better in that department. You saw today [in practice], trying to do a better job on our backcheck, maybe not being so easy to get through our forecheck. We're trying to fine tune our game."
On the opposing side, the Canadiens did not hold a morning skate at the Bell Centre, but practiced at their facility in Brossard. Per the Canadiens’ website, here were the lines during their skate. Plekanec is a game-time decision (groin injury), while P.K. Subban had a maintenance day and will be in Montreal’s lineup tonight.
Carey Price is expected to be between the pipes.
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