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Plenty on the line as Habs face rival Bruins

Tuesday, 03.08.2011 / 2:46 PM / NHL Insider

By Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

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Plenty on the line as Habs face rival Bruins
There are still some bad feelings leftover from the last time the Bruins and Canadiens played, but both sides can agree on one thing: Tuesday night's rematch in Montreal is a critical game.
MONTREAL -- Both the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday continued to lay blame at the skates of the other team for the brawls that marred a wild 8-6 Bruins victory when the teams met almost a month ago.

The Bruins have maintained during the past month that the reason the last game in Boston degenerated into a slugfest was because the Canadiens started it. Montreal's fans and media, on the other hand, have been accusing the Bruins of goon tactics.

While a consensus is not ever likely to be reached on this topic between the NHL's version of the Hatfields and McCoys, the sides readily agreed on another topic.

Tuesday night's game at the Bell Centre is huge; bigger than any notions of payback or revenge.

This game has enormous importance for two clubs who look to be ramping up their games at the right time of year.

The Bruins are the League's top road team at 22-7-4 and have won their past six games away from the TD Garden, their longest road streak in more than two years. They hold a five-point lead on the Canadiens in the Northeast Division standings with a game in hand, and the only reason that gap isn't wider is because Montreal is riding a four-game winning streak.

On the injury front, both Michael Cammalleri and Brent Sopel were on the ice for the Canadiens at Tuesday's morning skate after taking therapy days Monday. Canadiens coach Jacques Martin will add some grit into his lineup by playing Ryan White in place of Tom Pyatt, and defenseman Paul Mara will play alongside Sopel on Montreal's third pairing.

The Bruins are without defensemen Andrew Ference and Steven Kampfer, meaning rookie Matt Bartkowski will be in the lineup on defense for a second straight game.

It will mark the first game of his career against a team other than the Pittsburgh Penguins, as all three of his previous opportunities oddly came against Pittsburgh on Jan. 10, Jan. 15 and the Bruins' last game on Saturday, a 3-2 overtime loss.

"It'll be fun to play against another team," Bartkowski said, "especially in a rivalry like this."

While the buzz and attention is on the potential for extracurricular activity, the game will likely come down to a showdown between two of the NHL's top goalies.

"I think it's important we play with an edge, we're a much better team when we play with that physical edge and we establish that presence. But we have to be smart, we can't spend the whole game in the penalty box." -- Milan Lucic

The Canadiens' Carey Price is 4-0-0 in his past four starts with a 1.25 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage. His Bruins counterpart, Tim Thomas, is 3-0-1 in his past four starts with a 1.49 GAA and a .952 save percentage.

But there is no denying that the physical aspect of this game will be at the forefront -- especially early. Neither team was happy with some of the things that happened in the last meeting.

Power forward Milan Lucic, however, cautioned that his Bruins must walk the line between focused physical contact and undisciplined hitting.

"I think it's important we play with an edge, we're a much better team when we play with that physical edge and we establish that presence," he said. "But we have to be smart, we can't spend the whole game in the penalty box."
Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres