The rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins has been heated this season. It's also been one-sided.
The Canadiens seek to continue their dominance of the Bruins when the Original Six clubs face off Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.
Boston (14-9-3) and Montreal (13-10-4) own similar records, but haven't looked like equals when they've faced each other recently. The Canadiens have won the last six meetings - including three this season - by a combined margin of 24-9. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, Montreal has taken 15 of 19 games from the Bruins.
In 2007-08, the rivalry has also been marked by controversy. During the Canadiens' 2-1 win at Boston on Nov. 8, an unpenalized hit from Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon gave Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward a concussion that caused him to miss two games.
Nine days later, both teams lost their cool during the Canadiens' 7-4 victory at home. The clubs combined for 107 penalty minutes, 78 during a third period that included four fights. Midway through the final period, Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau and assistant Kirk Muller exchanged heated words with Boston head coach Claude Julien - who was behind the Canadiens bench in 2003-04.
"You work hard for 50 minutes to take the lead and get ahead of the other team, and then you have to deal with things like that," Carbonneau said. "Those aren't things I like to see but that's part of the emotion, part of the rivalry.
"I'm going to try to protect my players and my bench, and Claude is going to do the same thing with his bench."
Perhaps playing Boston again will give Montreal some of the spark it showed earlier in the season. The Canadiens have dropped three straight and five of their last six, including a 4-1 home defeat to Detroit on Tuesday night in which they had a season-low 16 shots on net.
"If you look at the first 15 games that we played, we played as a team," Carbonneau said. "We made the plays when the players were there, we stayed fresh on the ice, our passes were crisp, we received the pass well, if we had no play we put it in somewhere - we looked like a fast team.
"Now, because the confidence is not there, there's a lot of hesitation in our game."
Christopher Higgins scored his 11th goal to provide Montreal's only offense. The left wing has just one goal in the three games versus Boston this season.
This is the first home game in nearly two weeks for the Bruins, who finished a 3-2-1 road trip with a 4-3 overtime loss at New Jersey on Wednesday. Zdeno Chara, Glen Murray and Dennis Wideman scored to give Boston a three-goal lead in the first period, but that evaporated as the Bruins managed only 15 shots on net over the final two periods plus overtime.
Boston will likely turn to Finnish rookie Tuukka Rask in net Thursday, after starter Tim Thomas fell awkwardly while trying to snare a deflected shot with 1:10 left in regulation Wednesday night and had to leave the game. It's uncertain how long Thomas will be out, but he is inactive for Thursday night's game.
"We're not 100 percent sure what the injury is," Julien said. "He's still being evaluated. Rask was put in a tough position. Don't blame him for the last goal."
Rask has won his first two starts while allowing five goals on 55 shots, although he also allowed Wednesday's game-winner to Patrik Elias.
The 20-year-old Rask has yet to face the Canadiens or appear in a home game for Boston.
The Bruins added some goaltending depth Thursday, acquiring veteran Alex Auld from Phoenix in exchange for minor-league forward Nate DiCasmirro and a fifth-round pick in the 2009 NHL draft. Auld was 3-6-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average and one shutout in nine games with the Coyotes this season
Bruins center Marc Savard assisted on Wideman's goal Wednesday to extend his point streak to 11 games. Savard has two goals and 16 assists during the run, which is the longest in the NHL this season.
Savard had three assists in the Nov. 17 loss at Montreal.