CANADIENS (17-9-3) vs. BRUINS (18-7-2)
The Canadiens continue their marathon run of seven games in 11 days with a much-anticipated tilt against the rival Boston Bruins, who will battle Michel Therrien’s troops at the Bell Centre.
Having won their last two games, the Bruins are a well-rested bunch as they get set to play in Montreal. Their last game was on Saturday, November 30 against the Blue Jackets in Boston. Claude Julien’s squad won a 3-2 decision, racking up their second win in as many days.
For their part, the bleu-blanc-rouge have been playing plenty of hockey, and will be playing their second game in as many nights on Thursday after registering a 4-3 shootout victory over the Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center. Brian Gionta opened the scoring for the Canadiens in the first period, before Andrei Loktionov and Michael Ryder tallied for New Jersey in the third period to stake the Devils to a 2-1 lead at the 9:50 mark of the frame. Lars Eller proceeded to level the scoreline at 16:10, before Patrik Elias scored the go-ahead goal just over two-and-a-half minutes later. The Habs, however, managed to score the equalizer when David Desharnais tipped a Brian Gionta shot past Corey Schneider with just 37 seconds remaining in regulation time to extend the tilt. Desharnais went on to score the shootout winner by beating Schneider with a highlight-reel move five-hole.
While it may be early to discuss the Canadiens’ ranking in the NHL standings, Thursday night’s contest will afford a streaking Habs squad the opportunity to go up against the top team in the Atlantic division, who also currently sit second in the Eastern conference, just behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Habs have racked up an impressive 15 out of a possible 16 points in their last eight games.
The Bruins, who currently boast the best defense in the NHL by allowing an average of 1.96 goals per game, could be deprived of the services of two of their top regular rearguards. Adam McQuaid, who returned to action on November 27 in Detroit after sustaining a lower-body injury, re-aggravated the injury just two games later. He is listed as day-to-day, as is Torey Krug, who could still be back in the lineup for Thursday night’s tilt.
If the Canadiens can count on both Carey Price and Peter Budaj in goal against Boston, the Bruins can also count on their starter, Tuukka Rask to be up to the task as well. The Finnish netminder boasts the second-best goals-against average – 1.90 – for a goaltender who has played at least 20 games this season, ranking just behind Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild.
On offense, power forward Milan Lucic leads the team with 11 goals and nine assists. David Krejci, meanwhile, leads all Bruins with 21 points. Newly acquired forward Loui Eriksson, who was acquired during the offseason from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Tyler Seguin, has registered 14 points in 22 games. For his part, Jarome Iginla has amassed 15 points in 27 games.
Thursday night’s game marks the first meeting between the two teams this season. Both squads played one another four time during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign. After dropping a 2-1 decision in their first meeting of the year, the Canadiens won the ensuing three games.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Bell Centre.
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