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Canadiens and Bruins open home-and-home series

by John Kreiser

CANADIENS (2-5-2) at BRUINS (3-5-0)


Season Series:
It's the first meeting of the season between two of the NHL's oldest rivals, who play again in Montreal on Saturday. The Canadiens are coming to town for the first time in exactly six months -- on April 27, they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Bruins in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs. Montreal won four of the six regular-season meetings in 2010-11.

Big Story:
Neither team is off to a good start, though the Habs' slow beginning (1-5-2 before Wednesday's 5-1 win against Philadelphia) is their worst in 70 years. The Bruins have been off for three days since Saturday's 4-2 home loss to San Jose that dropped the defending Stanley Cup champions to 3-5-0.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Maybe the shock waves from the pre-game firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn were what the Canadiens needed to snap out of their funk. GM Pierre Gauthier announced 90 minutes before the puck dropped against Philadelphia that Pearn, who ran special teams, had been fired. The Canadiens allowed an early goal to Jaromir Jagr, then ran off five in a row to beat the Flyers and earn their first home win in six tries this season.

"It was a big shock to all the players. We didn't see it coming at all," said forward Max Pacioretty, who scored twice and added an assist after being a game-time decision because of a wrist injury. "When things are not going your way you've got to mix things up and it kind of sent a message to the players that they're willing to do what it takes to win hockey games.

"It's a decision that management made. None of the players were really involved in that but it showed us that no one's job is secure, and we've got to bear down at a time like this and do what we can to win."

Bruins: With just three wins in their first eight games as defending champions, the Bruins definitely look like a team with a case of Stanley Cup hangover. GM Peter Chiarelli thinks a home-and-home series with their archrivals is just what they Bruins need.

"Certainly that's come to mind when I look at the schedule," he said during a conference call on Tuesday. "We've got enough games that, for whatever reason, motivate us.

"I would hope that that would be the case against Montreal. They're rivals, we've had some real good games and series with them and all that history last year."

Who's Hot: Pacioretty leads the Canadiens with four goals and nine points in nine games after his big night against the Flyers. … Milan Lucic has goals in each of Boston's last two games and has five points in that span.

Injury Report: GM Pierre Gauthier says Andrei Markov, the club's top defenseman, will resume skating next week as he works to recover from offseason knee surgery. Center Scott Gomez is still sidelined with an upper-body injury, while defensemen Chris Campoli (hamstring) and forward Ryan White (groin) are out indefinitely. … Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid has missed five games with a neck injury but skated fully at Wednesday's practice and is almost ready to return.

Stat Pack: The Canadiens had not gone this deep into a season before getting their second win since 1941-42, when they got off to a 1-10-1 start. … After five failures, Montreal goaltender Carey Price finally got his 100th NHL win in the victory against the Flyers. He's the fifth-youngest goalie in the expansion era to reach triple figures in wins. Price is 100-80-26. … Both of Montreal defenseman Yannick Weber's goals have come on the power play. … One area in which the Bruins have struggled is the power play -- at 4-for-31 (12.9 percent), they're tied for 21st.

Puck Drop: Despite the slow start, Chiarelli says he's not in a hurry to make changes.

"You've heard me talk about addressing, dealing with this 'hangover' and whether it's been self-fulfilling or not, I believe it's here in some form," he said. "I haven't minded our game that much, like I think our compete level is getting a little better, our execution is getting a little better. We're still a little sloppy here and there, but I have to stress that ... it's something that we have to work through.

"There's no easy answer, and I'm not using it as a crutch. It's something that we expected, and talking to the guys to start the year, we've just got to deal with it. I'm obviously not happy with where we are in the standings, but this is new to us. I don't want to overreact, and unfortunately we have to do it game-by-game."

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