BROSSARD -- The rivalry between the Canadiens and Senators is about to heat up before it cools down.
With the two divisional foes set to face off three times over a seven-day span -- beginning with dates this Saturday and Sunday -- the upcoming week will more than likely determine who finishes first in the Atlantic.
After all, Montreal and Ottawa are currently separated in the standings by a single point with 12 and 13 games left to play, respectively.
"They're important [games], everyone knows that. Everyone's going to make stories about how this weekend goes, but we've just got to worry about ourselves," stressed Max Pacioretty, who has racked up 11 goals and 11 assists across 32 career games against Ottawa. "Being in a situation like this is a lot of fun. We can't get too uptight about it. It's a good opportunity for us to make a statement and get some points."
Montreal has picked up points in seven of its last 10 outings, and now has the opportunity to distance itself from Ottawa after the Sens failed to grab first place on Thursday night, falling 2-1 to Chicago.
But the Canadiens aren't scoreboard watching just yet when it comes to top spot.
"I don't think about it. I think about trying to win each game as it comes, and letting the rest take care of itself," continued the five-time 30-plus goalscorer. "You might find yourself watching box scores and doing the math in your head sometimes, but at the end of the day when you take a step back, all you can do is worry about your own game."
Video: Pacioretty on the home-and-away against Ottawa
Claude Julien confirmed on Friday that Carey Price will get the start in goal at the Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday, but the 56-year-old is keeping his options open for Sunday.
"Carey will play tomorrow, and then we'll see about Sunday," hinted Julien prior to travelling to Ottawa on Friday.
At the other end of the ice meanwhile, a familiar face is expected to make a start against his former team during the home-and-away series.
Goaltender Mike Condon is 18-12-6 with the Sens this season, with a 0.914 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average, but a game this weekend would mark his first against his former club.
"I figured he would get at least one game; he's going to be motivated. He's going to play his best against us -- we've got to expect that," described Pacioretty. "He's got a lot to prove, but so do we."
Condon has proven a lot since making his NHL debut with the Canadiens a year ago, working his way up from the ECHL to permanent employment in the bigs, and he left a good impression on his former teammates despite now being on the wrong side of the Highway 417 rivalry.
"He works really hard, and that's why he's at this level. He's overcome all the obstacles. He started at the bottom and came all the way up to the NHL. He's always been the guy in the gym doing extra, or on the ice doing extra. He's got some weird goalie routines, but it works for him," continued the Habs captain. "In camp, I remember I was injured and he asked if he could come skate with me. He's always doing extra and that's why he's at this level. I'm happy to see him having success...but hopefully not too much success against us."
Video: Julien's post-practice press conference
A DISH BEST SERVED COLD
Regardless of this weekend's outcomes, one of Montreal or Ottawa will have an opportunity in nine months to serve revenge to the other the way it was meant to be: cold.
On Friday morning, the NHL announced that the Habs and Sens will be heading outdoors next season for the NHL100 Classic at TD Place, on December 16. The event will mark the Canadiens' fourth open air outing since 2003, following dates with Edmonton, Calgary, and Boston over the years.
"It'll be cool. It'll be tough to top the Winter Classic [against the Bruins] and the experience we had there, but it's going to be cool," admitted Pacioretty, who scored a goal in the Habs' 5-1 outdoor win against Boston on New Year's Day in 2016. "Hopefully it's not too cold out and we'll have a good time. It's still far away, so I don't know too many of the details, but it's exciting."
Not to be the bearers of bad news, but next season's event will be the first outdoor game the club plays at night, as opposed to an afternoon start.
"Ok, well that would make it a lot colder then, but we'll see," cracked the 28-year-old, who will take part in his third game in the elements. "I've had one great experience... and then there was Calgary [in 2011] that was a 'little' cold. We'll see how it plays out."