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First place on the line for Bruins, Canadiens

by Brian Compton

BRUINS (18-7-2) at CANADIENS (17-9-3)


Last 10: Boston 7-2-1; Montreal 8-1-1

Season series: This is the first of four games between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. They won't play each other again until Jan. 30 at TD Garden.

Big story: One of the best rivalries in sports resumes Thursday at Bell Centre, and the stakes are high. The surging Canadiens picked up another victory Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils and sit one point behind the Bruins for the Atlantic Division lead.

"Their team has really in the last month stabilized themselves," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the team website Wednesday when asked about the Canadiens. "Defensively, they're not giving much. They're right behind us in goals against."

Team Scope:

Bruins: Boston enjoyed four days off after playing eight games in 13 nights, including two sets of back-to-back games. But the heavy workload didn't seem to bother the Bruins much, considering they enter Thursday atop the Atlantic and will be searching for their third straight win.

"We had a couple bumps and bruises and the little extra time – because we've played a lot of games so far in a row – just to have a couple days in between, is kind of nice after last year having no days off and going that far in the playoffs," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final last season before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Canadiens: David Desharnais scored the game-tying goal at 19:23 of the third period and added the shootout winner to lead Montreal to a wild 4-3 victory against the Devils at Prudential Center on Wednesday.

The Canadiens and Devils combined for five goals in the third period, including three in the final four minutes. Montreal has won three straight and is 7-0-1 in its past eight games and 9-1-2 since losing 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 7.

"We've played good hockey," Desharnais said. "Sometimes it's not our best hockey, but we find ways to win. Confidence is up right now. Everybody is playing well. Everybody is doing their job. We're having fun. It's great."

Who's hot: Bruins center David Krejci has a goal and four assists in the past five games. … Canadiens captain Brian Gionta has a goal and four assists in his past four. Desharnais has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his past eight games.

Injury report: Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (undisclosed) practiced Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day. He did accompany the team to Montreal. Adam McQuaid (lower body) is also day-to-day. … Montreal is expected to be without forward Rene Bourque (upper body) and defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder).

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