The sizeable bilingual media contingent arrived at TD Garden early Thursday only to find out that the Boston Bruins
would not be holding a pre-game skate. No players or coaches would be available to talk about anything related to Thursday night's highly anticipated and supremely hyped showdown against the Montreal Canadiens
until 4:30 p.m. at the earliest.
The Habs were instead left to handle the interrogation, and it was fairly deep for the morning of a game.
Following their optional skate that included 14 participants, Montreal coach Jacques Martin and players Michael Cammalleri
, Hal Gill
, Paul Mara
, Mathieu Darche
and David Desharnais
stood in front of their locker stalls and fielded questions ranging from retribution to Mark Recchi
's comments Wednesday on Boston sports talk radio that the Canadiens "embellished" the severity of Max Pacioretty
's injuries in an attempt to get Zdeno Chara
Eyebrows were raised at the latter while the brush-off was given to the former.
The basic message the Canadiens tried to send Thursday morning was that neither Recchi's comments nor the idea that they're out to avenge their injured teammate will play a role in Thursday's game -- which, by the way, is critical to the race for the Northeast Division crown that both the Habs and Bruins are fighting for.
"That's not our style of hockey to get into a brawl-fest. We want to play our style of hockey. We don't want to get into a bloodbath like everyone is talking about." -- Habs' defenseman Paul Mara
Boston holds a three-point lead over the Canadiens with two games in hand. The Bruins are third in the Eastern Conference while the Habs are sixth, meaning if the standings hold true, Thursday's game -- the sixth in a season series owned by the Habs (4-1) -- will serve merely as a tune-up for a first-round playoff series that promises to add another dramatic chapter in this Original Six rivalry.
The only message either team wants to send is one that reads, "We're better than you, remember it."
"That's what I think tonight's game is about probably for both teams," Cammalleri said in front of the bright lights of more than a half-dozen cameras. "We realize there is a high probability of us seeing each other in the postseason and tonight is a chance to get together, play and see who wins. It'll leave that lasting impression in both teams' minds if and when that postseason matchup happens."
Not that they need it, but if the Canadiens wanted proof why going after retribution is a bad idea, all they have to do is watch the highlights from their four wins over the Bruins this season. Each time they stayed disciplined and true to their system, keeping their penalty minutes down while capitalizing on five of their 15 power plays.
Their penalty kill was 14-for-15 in those games and Montreal held a combined 14-7 edge on the scoreboard.
The one time the Canadiens strayed off course and engaged in a physical, vengeful slugfest, the final score read 8-6 in favor of Boston and the game included a combined 182 penalty minutes, of which 90 belonged to the Habs. That was Feb. 9, the last time they met here at TD Garden.
"We know that in order to win the hockey game you've got to play a strong game defensively, and in that game we weren't very good defensively," Martin said. "We just didn't check well. It was one of those nights, and it was one of those nights for the Bruins. Usually they don't give up six goals very often. It was atypical of both teams."
Nobody expects something similar to happen Thursday, not with key points at stake.
"That's not our style of hockey to get into a brawl-fest," Mara said. "We want to play our style of hockey. We don't want to get into a bloodbath like everyone is talking about."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl