CANADIENS (13-13-7) at BRUINS (21-9-1)
: RDS, TSN-HABS, NESN
: Montreal 3-3-4; Boston 8-2-0.
: This is the fourth meeting in the longtime rivals' six-game season series. Montreal won the first two, sweeping a home-and-home exchange at the end of October before Boston topped the Canadiens 1-0 on Nov. 21, with Tim Thomas
making 33 saves for the shutout and Andrew Ference
providing the lone goal.
: Since posting a 3-7-0 record in October, Boston has been the League's best team, following up a November in which they didn't lose a game in regulation with a 6-2-0 record through the first two and a half weeks of December. The Canadiens meanwhile have failed to gain any real momentum and have hovered around the .500 mark much of the season. That record was considered mediocre enough for Montreal brass to relieve head coach Jacques Martin of his duties on Saturday.
: Montreal's 4-3 loss to the Flyers on Thursday may have been its first regulation loss in December, but it also brought to an end the team's modest two-game win streak, just the second time the Habs have managed consecutive wins since the end of October. That glaring lack of consistency resulted in the naming of assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth as Martin's replacement on an interim basis.
In Cunneyworth's first game behind the Montreal bench, the Canadiens scored three second-period goals to gain a 3-2 lead against the Devils Saturday night. But as they've been prone to do most of the last month, Montreal failed to keep the lead and came apart at the seams in the third period. David Clarkson tied the game with 1:34 remaining in the second period and goals from Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus in the third sealed the 5-3 Devils win. It marked the second straight game in which the Canadiens lost after being tied heading into the third period. In eight games this month, the Canadiens have already blown two one-goal leads, a two-goal lead, and a three-goal lead, going 1-1-2 in those games.
: Boston has shown no sign of slowing down since overcoming the rough start that introduced the term "Stanley Cup hangover" to much of the hockey-loving world. Since mustering just a single goal in consecutive losses to the Jets and Panthers earlier this month, the Bruins have posted four consecutive wins by a combined score of 19-5. That streak was punctuated Saturday afternoon with a resounding 6-0 win in Philadelphia that saw the Flyers and Bruins combine for six fighting majors and three 10-minute game misconducts.
The win was Boston coach Claude Julien's 200th with the franchise and allowed the Bruins to leapfrog the Flyers to gain the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston's got three goals with the man advantage and Tim Thomas
made 31 saves for his League-leading fourth shutout of the season. Perhaps most indicative of the Bruins’ balanced scoring attack was the three-assist performance courtesy of Rich Peverley
, a penalty-killing specialist who posted two power-play points.
: Tomas Kaberle
has five points in his four games since being dealt to the Canadiens and has nine points (all assists) on his current six-game point streak. David Desharnais
has four points in his last three games while Erik Cole
has four goals in his last five games. … Peverley has been scorching for the Bruins with six points in his last three games while Joe Corvo
has five points in his last four games.
: For the Canadiens, Travis Moen
missed Saturday's game while Andrei Markov
(knee), Ryan White
(sports hernia), Scott Gomez
(groin), and Brian Gionta
(lower body) are all on IR. … Other than Gregory Campbell
, who missed Saturday’s game with a broken foot, the Bruins are fielding a healthy lineup.
: While he isn't known for his scoring prowess, Peverley's three-point game against Philadelphia shouldn’t come as a shock. He has posted at least one three-point game in each of the last three seasons and boasted three separate three-point performance in a two week span between Jan. 16-29, 2009 while with the Atlanta Thrashers.
: The game in Boston marks the beginning of a season-long six-game road swing for the Canadiens. Most teams under a new head coach might be weary of spending so much time on the road, but it might be beneficial to the Habs, who boast a better record on the road (8-6-1) than on the road (5-7-6).