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Familiar faces add to Canadiens-Bruins rivalry

by Magalie Lafreni?re /
BOSTON --  Glen Metropolit thought it over.

"Maybe I'll take on Big Z," the Canadiens forward said with a gap-tooth grin on creating a new rivalry with his former Bruins teammate Zdeno Chara.

Thursday's Canadiens-Bruins game marks the 700th time these two rivals will face off. Only Detroit and Chicago have played each other more often, with 704 games.

The Canadiens-Bruins rivalry only has been heightened in the last few seasons, marked by playoff meetings each of the last two seasons. In the 2007-08 season, the Canadiens topped the Bruins in a seven-game first-round series; last season, the Bruins exacted their revenge, sweeping the Canadiens to advance to the second round.

But these days, with crippling injuries, both teams just need to win. Thursday the Canadiens will be without defensemen Hall Gill (hairline foot fracture), Andrei Markov (severed ankle tendons) and Ryan O'Byrne (knee), and forwards Matt D’Agostini (concussion) and Georges Laraque (back). The Bruins will be without Marc Savard (broken left foot), Milan Lucic (index finger), Byron Bitz (groin) and David Krejci (flu). The Bruins have been shut out in their last two games, while the Habs have lost three of their last four.

Bruins coach Claude Julien, who coached the Habs for 2 1/2 seasons, says it's not so much the rivalry that excites him.

"Right now I'd get excited by getting a win. ... I am certainly not going to put all my eggs in one basket and say this is what we need, we just need to win ourselves a hockey game."

Metropolit, who played with Boston in 2007-08 before joining the Canadiens last season, has fond memories of the series.

"It's always fun," he told "We're both battling right now for points. They've got the injury bug and we've been hit with it, too. It'll be two hard-working teams tonight having some fun out there."

Boston left wing Steve Begin faces Montreal for the first time tonight as a Bruin. Begin started last season with the Canadiens but was traded to the Dallas Stars in February. He signed with the Bruins this summer as a free agent.

"I guess it will be as much fun on this side as when I was on the other side," said Begin. "I'm looking forward to tonight. Last year when I played them it was a week after I got traded, so it was weird. For the whole team it's a must-win tonight. I can't wait for the game to start."

Montreal leads the all-time series with a 330-262-103-4 record, but the Bruins have the edge playing in Boston, 161-131-56-2, with a 1,030-947 goal-scoring advantage.

"Should be a good game", said Metropolit. "Who knows what kind of rivalry we'll start tonight? I don't know."

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