BROSSARD – What better way to kick off the 2012-13 Habs-Bruins rivalry than with a battle for top-spot in the Northeast?
With both teams powering out of the gate for the opening leg of the NHL calendar, it seems almost fitting that more that just bragging rights will be at stake when the puck drops for the first Canadiens-Bruins meeting of the year. Sitting a single point behind the Northeast-leading Bruins, a regulation win in Wednesday night’s game would leapfrog the Canadiens into the division's driver’s seat.
On the cusp of his first taste of hockey’s oldest rivalry, growing up a die-hard Habs fan has more than prepared Colby Armstrong for what he’s about to walk into.
“This is something that’s obviously pretty special to be able to do – especially at home. There’s a lot of excitement with us facing them for the first time this year, so it should be a real good test for us,” shared Armstrong, who won’t have to wait long too find out if his 22nd career-game against the Bruins will feel different with the CH on his chest.
“You can just feel it all around the city. I’m on Twitter and my Twitter’s been blowing up with people telling us to beat the Bruins, so we can definitely feel it from the fans’ side,” continued Armstrong. “It’s a rivalry that’s always been there in hockey so it shouldn’t be too hard to step right into it and just get going.”
Wednesday night’s tilt against the Bruins won’t just represent a test of skill over one of the top-ranked teams in the conference, but also a test of grit for the Habs, who will look to put their new team toughness up against another squad that’s built on a similar reputation.
“We’re going to go out there and play our style of game and try to do all the things that we know will bring us success as a team. A lot of things changed this year compared to how it was in the past,” said Josh Gorges, following the team’s game day skate on Wednesday morning. “We’re just going to keep going out there and imposing our game. Teams should be forced to adjust to us, not the other way around.”
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Unlike in seasons past, the Canadiens will actually be the healthier team when they hit the ice against Boston. While all systems are go on the Habs’ roster, both Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton failed to make the trip with the Bruins to Montreal. Additionally, Brad Marchand did not practice with his team Wednesday morning and remains a question mark for the game. Despite Boston's lack of manpower, the Habs aren't planning to approach the game any differently.
“I think they’ll play the same way no matter who’s in their lineup. That’s why they’ve been able to find success over the past couple of seasons,” pointed out Gorges. “This is going to be our biggest test. Our goal is to keep that mentality and sense of urgency for every game we play. Everyone keeps saying how important every game is in a shortened season, and they’re right.”
Aside from grit, the Canadiens’ power play will also be put to the test Wednesday night, going up against the NHL’s second-ranked penalty kill that’s allowed only two power play goals all season, none of which have come on the road.
“These games are never easy, but that’s what always makes them so great to play in. One shift can make a difference. The attention to detail and preparation that goes into facing these guys is why these games are so fun. I’m looking forward to it,” added Gorges, who after 24 games against the Bruins as a Hab is ready to get the latest edition of the rivalry underway. “We know who we’re going up against. They’re going to make us battle for every inch out there and we’re ready to do exactly that.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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