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BRUINS (6-1-1) at CANADIENS (6-2-0)
TV: NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. In spite of the Canadiens poor season, they played the Bruins very tight over their six games last season, going 2-3-1 in six games and scoring 12 goals while allowing 13. Over the past two seasons, these clubs each have a 6-5-1 record against each other.
Big story: It is very early to be speaking in these terms, but the winner of this game will have the lead in the Eastern Conference. It’s not overly shocking for the Bruins to be in this position, but for a Canadiens team that finished last in the conference a season ago it would be quite the lofty perch as they approach the quarter-pole of the season.
Bruins: The Bruins are coming off a three-day break following a hard fought 1-0 win in Toronto on Saturday night, giving Claude Julien’s coaching staff ample time to get the Boston power play going.
If there has been an Achilles heel for the Bruins over the past few years, it has been playing with the man advantage, and this season is no different. Boston has not scored a power play over its past three games, going 0-for-9 over that span, and the Bruins have only scored on the power play in two of their eight games thus far. At 10 percent efficiency, the Bruins sit 28th in the League in that department, but center Tyler Seguin does not feel it is as big of a problem as it appears.
“I think our power play is doing great right now,” Seguin said. “We’re going to need results and some goals, but other than that I think we’ve been moving the puck better than we have the last couple of years. We have some new units this year compared to the last few years, so we’re still trying to find chemistry.”
While the power play remains a problem, Boston’s penalty killing has been outstanding again. The Bruins did not allow a power play goal against over the first five games of the season and they are 32-for-34 on the season for a 94.1 percent efficiency rate.
Canadiens: The Canadiens swept their pair of matinees over Super Bowl weekend and have surprisingly emerged as one of the NHL’s top offensive clubs through the early going of the season. Montreal has scored 3.25 goals per game through eight games and allowed just 2.12 goals per game against.
However, the Canadiens’ solid start has been fueled by a home-heavy schedule that will have them playing their seventh game at the Bell Centre against the Bruins on Wednesday night, and that will see them play 12 of their first 18 games at home. The Canadiens won the fewest number of games at home in the NHL last season, but this season they have made Montreal a difficult place for teams to visit.
“We’re not blind to the fact we’ve had a pretty easy schedule so far in terms of travel and in terms of home games, but we’re not going to be as fortunate in the next little while so we really need to take advantage of this home stand when we can,” forward Max Pacioretty said. “We’re happy with that, it gives us some momentum. We owe our fans a lot of wins, so hopefully we can pile that on in the beginning and get this city behind us and build that momentum.”
Who’s hot: The hottest member of the Bruins would have to be goaltender Tuukka Rask, who shut out the Maple Leafs in his last start. He did allow six goals in a 7-5 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but prior to that he’d allowed three goals in two starts…Offensively for the Bruins, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have points in their past two games…After going without one for the season’s first six games, Canadiens center David Desharnais has three goals in his last two games, while his right wing Erik Cole is coming off his best game of the season with a goal and an assist…Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has won six straight starts and has allowed a single goal in each of his last two outings…
Injury report: The Bruins are missing forwards Shawn Thornton and Dan Paille. Forward Brad Marchand is questionable to play Wednesday, though he did skate with the team on Tuesday. Ryan Spooner was called up by Boston in case Marchand couldn’t go…The Canadiens are without center Petteri Nokelainen.