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Canadiens look to string wins together vs. rival Bruins

by Arpon Basu

CANADIENS (28-20-5) at BRUINS (34-15-3)


Last 10: Montreal 4-6-0; Boston 6-3-1

Season series: This is the second of four games between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins this season, the first at TD Garden. The Canadiens won the first game between the teams 2-1 at Bell Centre on Dec. 5.

Big story: The Canadiens snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes and will be looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in 2014 when they visit the Bruins. The Canadiens have won their past four games against the Bruins dating to last season.

However, it would be difficult to find a rivalry that has been more evenly matched in the NHL. The past nine straight between these teams and 14 of the past 16 games, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, have been decided by one goal, with five being tied at the end of regulation. The two games in that stretch that weren't decided by one goal each had an empty-net goal scored in the final 30 seconds of regulation to make it a two-goal margin.

This game will also snap a streak of five straight Canadiens-Bruins games that had first place in the division on the line, with Montreal trailing Boston by 10 points in the Atlantic Division standings.

But as history has repeatedly shown us, that should have no bearing on the quality of this game.

"We've had a natural rivalry with the Bruins over the years and over the decades," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said after practice Wednesday. "They are always games that are exciting to play, and there's no doubt the way we played [Tuesday] helped our team's confidence to play this game. The Bruins are playing well, so it will be a big challenge."

Team scope:

Canadiens: In spite of the 3-0 win Tuesday, the Canadiens still have problems that need sorting out, one of which is an anemic offense. Montreal is ranked 29th in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals with 77 in 53 games, and its power play has scored three times in its past 33 attempts.

One of the reasons for that problem has been Therrien's inability to put together a productive third line, due largely to the fact certain players are not producing as they were expected to.

Offseason free-agent acquisition Daniel Briere has registered a point in just two of his past 21 games, and he spent the game Tuesday shuffling back and forth between the third and fourth lines while getting 8:36 of ice time.

Another underperforming forward has been Rene Bourque, but he is coming off one of his better games of the season against Carolina and appears to be developing some chemistry with Brandon Prust on Montreal's third line.

"We play well together, we keep it simple," said Bourque, who has been the subject of trade rumors in Montreal. "Whether it's with Danny [Briere] or Lars [Eller], we've been having success with puck possession in the offensive zone, playing most of the game in their end."

Bruins: The Bruins, meanwhile, have no issues with scoring depth.

Each of Boston's top-six forwards has scored at least 10 goals, and Chris Kelly's return from a 22-game absence with a leg injury in the Bruins' 6-2 win at home Tuesday against the Florida Panthers makes that tremendous depth even deeper.

"We've always had success by having different guys stepping up at different times," forward Milan Lucic said after the game Tuesday, according to "Our team play is what has given us the most success."

The Bruins were fifth in the NHL in goals per game and tied for first in the League in goals against per game prior to games Wednesday.

Who's hot: For the Canadiens, forwards Brendan Gallagher and David Desharnais each have five points in their past six games. … The Bruins' line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith has combined for 14 goals and 15 assists in the past seven games.

Injury report: The Canadiens are missing defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and forwards Alex Galchenyuk (hand) and Ryan White (upper body). …The Bruins are without defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (knee, out for season) and Adam McQuaid (lower body).

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