Canadiens, Bruins battling for final East playoff spots
CANADIENS (29-28-6) at BRUINS (27-22-11)
Montreal 4-5-1; Boston 4-3-3
This is the fifth of six meetings between the two clubs. Montreal won the first three games, a 2-1 shootout win on Nov. 5, a 5-1 victory on Dec. 4 and another shootout win, 3-2, on Feb. 4. Boston shut out the Canadiens, 3-0, in their most recent matchup on Feb. 7. Tuukka Rask made 36 saves for the Bruins and Marco Sturm had a pair of goals. The win snapped the B's 10-game losing streak.
With the Bruins in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and the Habs one point behind in eighth, both will be eager to get back into action following the Olympic break to secure a playoff berth. The Lightning, the Rangers -- one point behind Montreal -- and the Thrashers -- two points behind -- pose the biggest threats to both clubs.
The Canadiens are one of the teams that welcomed the Olympic break. Injuries had once again started to take their toll and the break has led to the healthy returns of Andrei Kostitsyn
, Benoit Pouliot
and Andrei Markov
. Markov also suited up for Russia during the Olympics.
Jaroslav Halak was the Canadien that went the furthest in the 2010 Games with his native Slovakia. The goaltender led his countrymen to their best-ever showing, finishing just outside the medals in fourth place. But it will be Carey Price
who will start for Montreal in Boston on Tuesday, giving his teammate some much-needed rest. Price played just a period in the Canadiens' last game before the break, having replaced Halak for the final 20 minutes of a 6-2 loss to the Flyers. Brian Gionta
and Scott Gomez
scored Montreal's goals in defeat, both on the power play.
"We're really excited for tomorrow's game. It's good to have this week of practice to get going since we haven't played for a while," said Gionta, who will be happy to have a healthy Pouliot back in his line. "A game against Boston is a great way to kick off a road trip. Tomorrow will be a chance to get back into our rhythm."
While the Bruins have won their last four games, they haven't won at home since they hosted the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. In its last game before the break, on Feb. 13, Boston took a 3-2 victory over the Panthers in a shootout. Veteran right wing Mark Recchi finally solved Tomas Vokoun in the eighth round, as well as scoring in regulation.
Boston also welcomes back two Olympic goal medalists. Centre Patrice Bergeron won gold with Team Canada and goaltender Tim Thomas earned silver with the USA.
"Yes this is an exciting time of year, not just because it's after the Olympics but just this time of year," said David Krejci, whose Czech Republic team was eliminated by Finland in the semifinals. "March and April you're playing to get into the playoffs and every game counts. I like to play these games and I'm looking forward to it."
Sergei Kostitsyn showed off his skill at the Olympics with two goals and three assist in four games with Belarus, while Glen Metropolit, who has done well against his former teams this season, is one goal shy of his career high of 14. The former Bruin has three goals against Boston this season and has netted two goals in his last three games.
B's center Marc Savard had six points in five games before the break. Krejci had a goal in Boston's game against the Panthers and recorded two goals and an assist for the Czechs during the Games.
Montreal's Michael Cammalleri
(right MCL) and Marc-André Bergeron (knee) are sill not ready to make the four-game road trip and are on injured reserve. … Boston defensemen Mark Stuart (left pinky finger surgery) and Johnny Boychuk (broken orbital bone) are day-to-day, but both have been practicing.
Price has an 8-2-2 all-time record against the B's and a 2.51 goals-against average.
"We probably couldn’t ask for a better team to come in here. … We normally, both teams, get up for these types of games and there's a good rivalry here. What better way to start this 22-game stretch here?" -- Bruins coach Claude Julien