MONTREAL, QC - Ah, Bruins-Habs. The matchup that any fan of the game can appreciate.
"The rivalry – if you don’t get up for these games, what will [you get up for]?" said Patrice Bergeron, a 10-year vet of the storied matchup. "It’s always fun to be part of it; there’s so much history behind it. I’m just happy to play and to be part of these games."
There's something so riveting about the passion of the fan bases, of the teams, of their histories. You feel it within the confines of the Garden, and you certainly feel it the moment you step foot in the Bell Centre, and look up at the 20,000-plus stacked red seats, with names like "M. Richard" in the rafters.
The Boston Bruins have been around for 90 years. The Montreal Canadiens turned 104 this year.
Thursday night marks the 722nd regular season meeting between the two rivals, and the first of four games in 2013-14. Only Detroit and Chicago have met more (725 times).
Their last eight games against each other have been decided by just one goal.
Boston comes into the Bell Centre with an 18-7-2 record, 38 points on the season, and first place standing in the Atlantic Division. Montreal sits just behind with 37 points, and a 17-9-3 record.
"It's probably a game everybody has been waiting for; fans and players alike," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "This is a great rivalry and we enjoy this kind of rivalry. Those are easy games to get up for, for both sides, and it ends up being pretty entertaining games as well."
"This is an entertainment sport and I think the players know that and these are the kind of games that the fans want to watch."
"I know it's going to be high energy; they're playing great hockey and we're playing well, too," said defenseman Torey Krug, who only has one preseason game in the Bell Centre from September under his belt. He's a game-time decision, but expect to be in the lineup.
"So it's going to be a lot of fun playing in there."
Meanwhile, Bruins winger Reilly Smith will be playing his first game in Montreal, and will get his first experience of the heated rivalry.
"There’s going to be a lot of intensity out there, high emotions," said Smith. "There’s not too many times in a career you’re able to be a part of this rivalry and to be in this building too because it’s a storied place to play and it should be very exciting."
With younger players like Krug and Smith, the atmosphere is something new, but don't expect them to be carried away by it.
"I think Torey’s been through the trenches, you know, playoff hockey with us; he’s not an issue," said Julien. "And I would say the same thing about Reilly Smith as well."
"He acts like a guy that has been around forever. He’s very calm, he doesn’t let those kind of things get to him. I don’t think it’s going to affect him."
"He’s such a cool competitor and a cool individual and he just goes out there and plays."
"They’ve been through enough that they shouldn’t be a question mark as far as what we’re going to get from them."
Veteran 'D' Johnny Boychuk does have a bit of advice for Krug and Smith, though.
"Even during the anthem, it’s so loud and it’s a different atmosphere than any other away arena and you just have to embrace it," he said.
Krug and Smith have been labeled as "veterans" on numerous occasions by their teammates, from their demeanor on and off the ice, and you can expect that to remain the same as they skate onto the Bell Centre ice.
Staying composed and blocking out the crowd is key, but it's also okay to feed off of the excitement.
"Their fans are passionate and loud and it’s always fun to go in there," said Boychuk. "And try to take two points from them in their house."