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Bruins battle Canadiens with first place on the line

by Arpon Basu /

BRUINS (24-8-4) at CANADIENS (24-8-5)


Last 10: Boston 5-4-1; Montreal 6-3-1

Season series: This is the last of four meetings this season between the Original Six rivals. The Montreal Canadiens won the last game 6-5 in a shootout after erasing a two-goal deficit in the last eight minutes of the third period. It was Montreal’s second win in the three games thus far.

Big story: As if the NHL's most heated rivalry needed any added spice to it, this will be the fourth time this season the two teams will meet with first place in the Northeast Division on the line. With so few games left in the season this time around, it takes on extra significance – if that’s possible.

Team Scope:

Bruins: The Boston Bruins won their first game since beefing up at the trade deadline with the acquisitions of Jaromir Jagr and Wade Redden 1-0 against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, with Jagr scoring the lone goal in his first game with his sixth NHL team.

This will be Jagr’s first taste of the bitter rivalry with Montreal, and he’s excited to experience it firsthand.

“Every game is going to be like a playoff game,” Jagr told the Bruins' website following practice Friday morning. “We found that out [Thursday against New Jersey]. Every point is so important, it's even more important for team's that are fighting for the playoffs for the eighth or seventh spot.

“For us, we want to try to be in first place, so it's going to be a huge game. You want to get ready for the playoffs with games like that.”

Bruins center Chris Kelly, out since March 11 with a fractured tibia, practiced with his teammates Friday and was not ruled out for Saturday night’s game; however, coach Claude Julien was not overly optimistic he would play. Kelly’s defensive presence and strength in the faceoff circle would help mitigate the loss of Patrice Bergeron to a concussion, though he is a player that is impossible to replace, especially considering he has torched Montreal for seven points in three games this season.

Canadiens: The Canadiens did not practice Friday after playing a road game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday and a home game against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. The game against the Bruins will be Montreal’s fifth in seven days, which explains the rest day Friday, though that meant the Canadiens will not have held a full practice in eight days by the time Saturday night rolls around.

“We’re trying to manage the players’ energy as much as we can,” Therrien said following Thursday night’s game. “We need to leave a bit of gas in the tank.”

An argument could be made that the Canadiens don’t particularly need to practice.

Prior to Friday night’s games, Montreal was fourth in the League in goals per game (3.11), seventh in goals against per game (2.38), third in 5-on-5 goals for and against ratio (1.36), seventh in power-play efficiency (21.9 percent) and 12thhon the penalty kill (82 percent).

The status of Tomas Plekanec, who missed Thursday’s game with a groin injury, remains up in the air. He has a goal and four assists in three games against the Bruins this season to lead all Montreal scorers.

Who's hot: For the Bruins, the line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic has six goals and eight assists in its last five games, with Horton scoring four times in that span. In goal, Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have split the last four games, allowing four goals between them on 134 shots, a save percentage of .970 … For the Canadiens, left wing Michael Ryder has nine goals in his past 11 games. Defenseman P.K. Subban has a goal and seven assists in his past five games; he scored two goals and added two assists in the first three games against Boston this season.

Injury report: The Bruins will be without Bergeron, probably Kelly and defenseman Adam McQuaid (shoulder). … The Canadiens are missing defenseman Raphael Diaz (concussion) and left wing Rene Bourque (concussion). Plekanec is officially considered day-to-day.

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