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Canadiens-Bruins Preview

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After nearly blowing their chances of making the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens are showing they're not done yet.

The Canadiens continue their push for the postseason on Thursday as they try to sweep a home-and-home series from the Boston Bruins for the first time in more than 16 years.

Montreal (37-31-6) was in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points on Feb. 5, but went just 4-11-0 over the next month to fall to 11th place.

The Canadiens, though, have won four of their last five games and are in a three-way tie with Toronto and Carolina for eighth place in the East with 80 points.

Montreal holds a one-point lead over the New York Islanders, who have two games in hand on the Canadiens. The Hurricanes and Maple Leafs have each played one fewer game than Montreal.

"So now it's up to us to get ready, concentrate and focus on every game we have to play," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We don't have a lot of games left, but if we win them all we should be in the playoffs."

The Canadiens defeated the Bruins 1-0 on Tuesday as rookie Jaroslav Halak made 30 saves for his first NHL shutout in his ninth career game. Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots for Boston (34-33-5), which has been shut out in two straight contests.

Montreal can now earn its first sweep of a home-and-home series with Boston since Dec. 6-8, 1990.

Halak won his first three starts after being called up from Hamilton of the AHL on Feb. 14 to fill in for Cristobal Huet, who is out for the rest of the regular season with a left hamstring injury.

The 21-year-old followed up that stellar start with four straight losses and was benched the next three games before allowing two goals in winning his last two starts.

"When he came up, everything was new to him and he just wanted to have fun and play well," Carbonneau said. "Then he won three in a row and maybe, sometimes you start to feel the pressure and you think differently and you act differently, not because you're cocky but just because of the pressure and the accolades.

"I think for him to sit back and see where he is and what's going on around him, I think now he's better prepared."

Rookie Guillaume Latendresse scored the only goal for the Canadiens on Tuesday. He has scored five of his 16 goals this season in the last six games.

Scoring goals against Boston has been difficult for Montreal lately, as Thomas has allowed just four in his last three games against the Canadiens.

Boston lost for the fifth time in seven games on Tuesday and has scored a total of two goals in those defeats.

"We haven't scored a goal in six periods," coach Dave Lewis told the team's Web site. "We have to score. We were around the net sometimes, but not enough."

The Bruins are in 13th place in the East with 73 points.

These teams conclude their season series on April 3 in Montreal.

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