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GAME: Montreal Canadiens (40-28-7-3) at Boston Bruins (38-18-14-7).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Getting home-ice advantage in the playoffs is a top priority for most teams.

The Boston Bruins aren't one of them.

The Bruins try to extend their slim lead atop the Northeast Division when they conclude their season series against the rival Montreal Canadiens.

While most teams usually play much better at home, that hasn't been the case for the Bruins, who are 17-11-8-2 at the FleetCenter and 21-7-6-5 on the road.

Boston has been shut out 10 times this season, including a team-record eight at home.

"I don't have an explanation for it," Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We track the scoring chances pretty close and in detail, and we generate as many scoring chances at home as we do on the road."

Ed Belfour became the latest goalie to post a road shutout against the Bruins, stopping 33 shots in Toronto's 3-0 victory Thursday.

The Maple Leafs moved just one point behind Toronto, and one ahead of Ottawa in the crowded race for the Northeast title. The division winner is guaranteed one of the top three seeds and home-ice in the opening round of the playoffs.

Though Boston has lost just two of its 10 overall (7-2-1-0), both of those defeats have come at home by shutout.

Thursday's loss ended a personal five-game win streak for Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft, who has allowed two goals or fewer in six of his last seven starts.

Montreal, trying to catch New Jersey for sixth in the Eastern Conference, has seen its lead over the eighth-place New York Islanders sliced to four points. New York also has a game in hand on Montreal.

The Canadiens also were shut out in their last game - 4-0 by Patrick Lalime and visiting Ottawa on Thursday.

"Lalime made the difference early in the game," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "I thought we came out well and if we'd been more opportunistic early, it might have been a different game."

Losing two straight may not be the worst news for the Canadiens, who could be without top defenseman Sheldon Souray on Saturday.

Souray, who recently returned after missing 17 games with a knee injury, left Thursday with a shoulder injury. He has career highs this season with 15 goals and 35 points.

"Sheldon is day-to-day," Julien said. "Hopefully, we'll have better details as we move on."

Jose Theodore is 2-1-1 with an 0.96 goals-against average in four starts against Boston this season.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 90 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northeast Division. Bruins - 97 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 25 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 42 assists and 62 points; Darren Langdon, 135 PIM. Bruins - Glen Murray, 30 goals; Joe Thornton, 48 assists and 70 points; Doug Doull, 127 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 25): Canadiens - Power play: 17.6 percent (54 for 306), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (243 for 295), 22nd. Bruins - Power play: 16.1 percent (44 for 274), 17th. Penalty killing: 83.8 percent (263 for 314), 19th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (32-25-5, 6 SO, 2.20 GAA); Mathieu Garon (8-6-2, 2.32). Bruins - Raycroft (27-17-8, 3, 2.01); Felix Potvin (11-8-6, 4, 2.52).

SEASON SERIES: Bruins, 2-0-1-2.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 26; Canadiens, 3-2, (OT). At Boston, Craig Rivet scored with one minute left in overtime, and Theodore made 37 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 18-16-3-2 on the road; Bruins - 17-11-8-2 at home.

Associated Press
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