One reason the Boston Bruins finished in last place last season was its poor play against the Montreal Canadiens. Boston is back in the Northeast Division basement this season and it hasn't even faced Montreal.
The Bruins hope to avoid a sixth straight loss to the Canadiens when these Original Six clubs renew their rivalry on Thursday.
This is the first of eight meetings this season between these teams, which first met in 1924.
Montreal won seven of the eight last season, including the final five - a streak during which it outscored Boston 16-6 and posted three straight shutouts from Feb. 4 to April 1.
These teams are in the same positions in which they ended the 2005-06 season, with the Canadiens (4-2-2) in third place in the Northeast and the Bruins (2-4-1) alone at the bottom.
"It's important, they're in our division," Boston rookie forward Phil Kessel told bostonbruins.com. "We need to win this game. We're preparing for it and going out there to play hard and win the game."
Both clubs come off losses to the team leading the division, as well as the NHL's only unbeaten team - the Buffalo Sabres.
While the Bruins have had four days off since their 6-2 loss to the Sabres, the Canadiens fell 4-1 to Buffalo on Monday.
The highlight of Boston's fourth loss in five games was Kessel, the fifth overall pick in this year's draft, scoring his first NHL goal. He has three points in seven games this season.
The Bruins failed on all four of their power-play chances Saturday, and have been among the league's worst teams in that category this season by going 4-for-37 (10.8 percent).
Boston will play its third straight home game Thursday after opening the season with a five-game road trip. The Bruins, who beat Calgary 3-2 in their home opener last Thursday, play six of their next seven games at home.
"Obviously we want to get winning here and give the fans something to cheer about," said center Marc Savard, whose Bruins were 16-15-10 at home in 2005-06.
Montreal has split its four road games, allowing only one power-play goal in 26 short-handed situations.
While Mike Johnson scored the only goal for Montreal on Monday, captain Saku Koivu had a season-worst minus-3 rating. The Canadiens have recorded at least one point in every game in which Koivu has had one, and their only two regulation losses have come when he failed to register a point.
Montreal has been wildly inconsistent while splitting its last four games overall, scoring only one goal in each of the two losses while totaling 13 in the two wins.