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Pregame Notebook vs. Montreal

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins – The Boston Bruins will look to open up a seven-point Northeast Division lead over the Montreal Canadiens tonight as they take on the Habs in the Bell Centre.

Tonight’s game marks the final regular season tilt between these two teams in the Bell Centre and the fifth of six match-ups between the clubs this season. The Bruins are 1-2-1 vs. the Canadiens in this season’s series with their only victory coming Feb. 9 in Boston, 8-6.

Boston enters tonight in second place in the Eastern Conference, but with Washington’s 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, they have tied the Bruins with 84 points. A B’s victory tonight would put a two-point wedge between them and the surging Capitals.

Both Boston and Washington are only two points behind the East-leading Philadelphia Flyers.

Despite their 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday night, the Bruins have also been on a surge. The have picked up a point in their last eight consecutive games, including a seven-game win streak that was snapped by the Penguins on Saturday.

While Boston enters tonight 7-2-1 in their last ten contests, the Canadiens are just a step behind at 6-3-1 in their previous ten.

“I think from here on in they’re all important games. Obviously (tonight), divisional game, they’re the ones behind us trying to catch us for the divisional lead,” B’s left-winger Milan Lucic said of the Habs.

“They’re on a bit of a winning streak and they’ve been playing well. It seems every time we go in there, they play a good, hard game against us. So that’s the way we’re going to have to play. We’re going to have to play hard but most of all we’re going to have to play smart.”

The last time they met
The last time these two teams squared off, in a 8-6 Bruins victory on Feb. 9, there were almost as many fights as there were goals. 

Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins and Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens
The game featured two hours and 52 minutes of brawling and goal scoring. Between the two clubs, 14 pucks were netted and 182 penalty minutes were handed out.

The Fight Club essence of the game got the fans involved and the players riled up.

“It was pretty crazy, especially that second period. Eight goals scored, four for each side in that second period,” Lucic said yesterday.

“It was a lot of fun to be in, I know our fans still talk about it and remember it and obviously there’s some things we did great offensively and there’s some things we did great sticking up for one another, being team tough.

“Moving forward here we’re still going to have to do the same thing, be team tough, and like I said play smart. I think a big thing for us last game, was we were able to establish that lead, get that first goal and we played well after that.”

Despite the high level of physical play the last contest provided, the Bruins don’t expect any carry-over from the February match-up.

“It’s just going to be another game, another playoff-type game. They always are when we play Montreal, but from out side of things nobody really focuses on that,” forward Gregory Campbell said.

“Whatever happened last game was part of the game. It was an exciting game, lots of goals. But there are things like that that aren’t talked about really and there’s nothing planned.”

Bartkowski to face non-Pens squad
Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who was recalled on March 4 on an emergency basis, is expected to play against the Canadiens tonight in his fourth NHL game. His three previous NHL appearances have all come against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yesterday, the Pittsburgh, PA native said he was excited to face a team other than his hometown Pens. 

“It’s a big rivalry too so it should be a fun game,” he said. “I got to play a preseason game in Montreal, which was pretty fun. So I’m pretty excited about it.”

In Saturday’s loss to the Pens Bartkowski took 13 shifts for 9:13 of ice-time. He recorded a hit and a blocked shot.

“I thought it was all right, coming along,” Bartkowski said of how he felt he played on Saturday. “I’m starting to play a little more like I can, just getting more confidence every shift.”

Tonight, though, Bartkowski is looking to get even more physical against the rival Habs.

“Just a lot of plays down low around the net. I got a chance to watch the last game, it was pretty rough,” he said of what he expects from Montreal. “Just going to play real physical, hit their forwards, get the puck in deep and get on their D.”

B’s look to stay tough, disciplined
Known for their physical style of play that has propelled them on their current 7-2-1 run, the Black & Gold know they have to maintain that aspect without going overboard.

The key to victory for the B’s heading down the stretch of the season will be staying disciplined and keeping their players out of the penalty box.

“That’s always the key, discipline is the key to winning all the time. They’ve got a pretty decent power play that you have to respect, they’ve got a team that thrives on that kind of stuff,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said after the team’s practice yesterday morning.

“So we have to make sure, the good penalties we seem to kill, the bad penalties end up costing us at the end. That’s what you have to do here, stay disciplined and make sure you stay out of the box or you’re going to go in there for the right reasons.”

Montreal enters tonight’s game eighth in the league in power play, scoring in 19.9 percent of their man-advantage opportunities. They have a slightly better mark of 20.6 percent while at home.

The Bruins are a few steps behind when it comes to penalty killing, Boston ranks 13th in the league with an 82.6 percent kill rate. They are better on the road however, with an 83.3 percent kill rate.

“It’s huge,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said of the B’s ability to keep their emotions in check.

“The crowd is very loud and as soon as they cross the red line they get crazy. So we have to make sure we keep our emotions in check…and play our game and don’t worry too much about what they’re going to do and what they’re going to give us.”

Player Profile: Nathan Horton
B’s forward Nathan Horton enters tonight’s game with a five-game point streak, collecting 3-2-5 totals over that span.

Horton, who skates on the Bruins first line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, has been a key to the B’s success all season. 

Entering tonight’s game, the Bruins are 12-3-2 when Horton scores a goal and 24-3-3 when he records a point.

Thus far in his first season with Boston, Horton has 18-25-43 totals in 63 games

Horton’s recent surge has come after a 20-game slump over the course of the middle of the season, in which he scored only one goal.

Recently though, Horton and his linemates have been the B’s top producing line and coach Julien is happy with their production.

“I think right now they’re feeling pretty good about their game. The fact that every one of them is competing extremely hard has certainly been a key to their success,” he said.

“Right now they’re reaping the benefits and once you see what you can get out of those kind of efforts you want to keep doing it. I think right now, as I mentioned, they like what they see, they like what’s happening to them and hopefully they’ll want to keep it going.”

Part of the key to keeping it going will be Horton’s ability to maintain his physical game as well as his offensive touch.

Skating along side tough guy Lucic, Horton’s physicality may sometimes take a back seat to #17’s right-hook, but Horton has a mean jab of his own.

The 6-foot-two, 229-pound forward has dropped the gloves five times this season. The Bruins are 4-0-1 when Horton fights.

---Hannah Becker
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