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Canadiens-Bruins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (41-29-9) at Boston Bruins (29-35-16).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT.

With a little help, the Montreal Canadiens can clinch a playoff spot if they continue their season-long domination of the Boston Bruins.

Montreal starts play seventh in the Eastern Conference with a two-point edge over Tampa Bay for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Canadiens will wrap up a playoff berth if they win this game while ninth-place Atlanta loses to Washington.

Just winning this contest would have been enough for Montreal to clinch if it had won Wednesday, but the team went scoreless in six power-play opportunities and never led in a 3-1 loss to Buffalo.

"They're all really important games right now," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "We need points to secure a playoff spot."

Sheldon Souray scored for the Canadiens, who are trying earn back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since 1997 and 1998. They have lost two of three games since winning a season-high eight straight.

Before closing the regular season with home games against Buffalo and New Jersey, Montreal goes for its seventh win in eight games against Boston. The Canadiens have held their Northeast Division rivals to just 10 goals in the previous seven matchups, including three shutout victories.

Their performances against Montreal are part of what has been a disappointing season for Boston, which is closing its home schedule.

The Bruins reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons, but were eliminated from playoff contention earlier this month. They will finish in last place in the Northeast.

Boston has lost 16 of 20, including three consecutive defeats in overtime.

The latest such loss came Tuesday, 4-3 at Ottawa. Bruins defenseman Brad Stuart scored the tying goal with 18 seconds left in the third, but Tim Thomas gave up a goal to Zdeno Chara 40 seconds into the extra period.

"It's a tough time of year when you know you're not going to be in the playoffs," said Travis Green, who scored a short-handed goal. "I thought we played pretty well."

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 91 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Northeast Division. Bruins - 74 points, 5th place, 36 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 29 goals; Koivu, 43 assists; Alexei Kovalev, 61 points; Todd Simpson, 125 PIM. Bruins - Patrice Bergeron, 29 goals and 70 points; Brad Boyes, 42 assists; Hal Gill, 122 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 19.3 percent (87 for 450), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (378 for 468), 22nd. Bruins - Power play: 15.0 percent (62 for 412), 25th. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (395 for 472), 12th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Cristobal Huet (18-10-4, 7 SO, 2.14 GAA); David Aebischer (28-16-2, 3, 3.09). Bruins - Thomas (12-12-10, 1, 2.70); Andrew Raycroft (8-19-2, 3.71).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 6-1.

LAST MEETING: April 4; Canadiens, 5-3. At Montreal, rookie Chris Higgins scored the go-ahead goal 14:31 into the third period and the Canadiens had three power-play goals.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 17-18-5 on the road; Bruins - 16-14-10 at home.

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