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Pregame Notebook: Lineup Questions Linger as B's Prep for Habs

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTONJimmy Hayes is very familiar with the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry.

No, he hasn’t yet played in one of those rivalry games. But he certainly watched plenty of them as a kid.

“That’s always a dream come true, to play against a team like that,” said the Dorchester native following Saturday’s morning skate at TD Garden. “So to be able to have that going, and to be a part of it now, finally, is going to be a great experience.

“Just growing up, you always see the battle these two teams have against one another. It just continues throughout the years, and it’s going to continue tonight and go on for the rest of the season.”

When the Canadiens come to town, it is always especially exciting, not just for the fans, but for the players. The rivalry always adds a little something extra.

“It’s always fun to start the season, especially when you get these matchups in the second game, so it’s very exciting,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask. “We’re going to play these guys in the Winter Classic, so I’m sure people are talking about that. Saturday night, Boston, against the Habs — so what’s better than that?”

Nothing, according to Habs Head Coach Michel Therrien.

“It’s always a good rivalry — it’s good for the game, it’s good for the fans, it’s good for the media and players,” Therrien said. “Even if there’s a lot of new faces with the Bruins, one thing is for sure: It’s never easy to win in Boston, especially when we’re here, because we know they’re going to be ready. As far as we’re concerned, we’re going to be ready as well.”

The Bruins are expecting Saturday’s matchup to be challenging in myriad ways. One of the biggest challenges will be in net, in the form of reigning Vezina winner Carey Price.

“He’s played great hockey throughout his career, and we’ve always had a tough time scoring on him,” Rask said. “ He’s won pretty much every single trophy in the league, so extra credit to him, but it’s always tough to play against him. Obviously, he doesn’t let in too many goals, so [that brings] extra motivation, for sure.”

It was also be a challenge to bring the right amount of emotion — not too much, not too little, and just enough to make a difference.

That goes for both the Bruins and the Habs.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a game we’re playing, here,” said Montreal forward Dale Weise. “Emotions do get a little heavy out there, and after games, people will stay stuff they’ll probably regret later, but at the end of the day, we’d probably sit around as a team, we’d probably laugh about some of the stuff that comes up. It’s all part of the game.

“Boston-Montreal rivalry — it’s what everyone wants to be a part of.”

Hayes knows this game will be special. He knows there will be a little extra adrenaline flowing for everyone on the ice. So as he approaches his first Bruins-Habs game, he will try to treat this game like any other on the calendar.

“Tonight’s obviously going to be a little more intense, with that big rivalry, so you’ve just got to stay the same,” Hayes said. “You’ve just got to kind of be even; you don’t want to get too high or too low at any point during the game and just bring your high-paced energy.”

Tightening Up

The Bruins spent their practice time on Friday tightening up defensively and correcting some of the mistakes and miscommunications that led to goals against in their 2015-16 debut.

On Saturday, they will have the opportunity to put those adjustments on display.

“I thought that offensively, we created a lot of good chances and we were good in that area; we just weren’t very good defensively,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “So awareness of what we need to do without the puck — I think we were very sloppy and we have to clean that part of our game up.”

Defense, in Julien’s eyes, isn’t the only area of improvement for the B’s. The forwards, too, need to tune up in certain areas as well.

“They need to come back and help out — not just defensively, but also for our transition game,” Julien said. “There were parts of that game — not in the first period, because it thought we did a great job — but as the game went on, we started stretching on again, and so obviously that didn’t help our game.

“We know that when we don’t come back and regroup properly, it takes away the momentum of our game there. So it’s not just that part; defensively, coming to help, and also offensively, as far as our counter game is concerned.”

As the B’s saw on Thursday night, one good period isn’t enough to win a hockey game. On Saturday, they will make sure they put in the full 60 minutes of effort.

“We’ve got to play for the whole game,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “I think we slowed down and we got on our heels, and we let them get the momentum back and we never really were able to get it back. You have to grab it. And that’s definitely the lesson, is to play like we played in the first 20.

“I thought that was definitely the way we want to play, and we want to approach the game — be first on pucks and put the puck on net, and we’ve got to find ways to bury our chances.”

Of course, that will be easier said than done going up against Price.

“He’s one of the top three goalies in the league, for sure, so it’s not going to be easy,” said forward David Krejci. “But we’re going to have to make sure we put lots of pucks on net, lots of traffic and battle for some loose pucks for some rebounds. That’s going to be the way to beat him.”

Possible Lineup Changes

Julien did not indicate whether or not there will be any lineup changes — particularly on the back end — when Boston takes the ice for the second game of this young season. But he didn’t dispute the notion, either.

Julien said captain Zdeno Chara — who has been out since Sept. 22 with an upper-body injury — is “doubtful” for Saturday’s game, but did not rule him out.

It is also possible that rookie blueliner Colin Miller could make his NHL debut against the Canadiens. During morning skate, Miller skated with Joe Morrow on the third pairing, with Chara and Zach Trotman rotating in.

Miller, who was acquired in the trade that sent Milan Lucic to the Kings, had an impressive camp, putting his poise, composure and blistering slapshot on display whenever he got into game action.

Miller will take warmups on Saturday night, after which his status will be decided.

“[I’m] definitely excited,” Miller said. “Obviously, it’s a big thing for everybody to get their first one under their belt, so we’ll see.”

Making his debut in the midst of the Bruins-Habs rivalry would certainly be memorable.

“If that happens, it would be pretty interesting,” he said. “Obviously, the rivalry’s pretty crazy, so it will be fun to kind of become a part of it.”

Miller did say that he benefitted from watching Boston’s first game from press level, especially as a player who has only had a little over a month to learn the Bruins’ system.

“It was actually kind of beneficial to sit out the other night and watch the game, read the pace and get used to a little bit, if you can, by watching,” he said. “So it definitely wasn’t a bad thing.

“It happens quick; everything happens quick out there. You’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to be prepared. The transition game is so quick; you can go on offense and then it comes back defense, so I think [it’s about] just being very cautious and making sure to bear down and be very solid.”

Projected Lineup vs. Montreal

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson

Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak

Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly

Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid

Matt IrwinKevan Miller

Joe MorrowColin Miller

Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

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