BOSTON -- Its pretty clear the Montreal media is pushing the Max Pacioretty making his heroic return against the Bruins story angle this week, but the Bruins arent biting.
Pacioretty has had an eventful week. He injured his right wrist a problem that many in the Habs media corps quickly diagnosed as a broken wrist and then potted two goals in Montreals big 5-1 victory over the Flyers after he was expected to miss the game.
That sets up a dramatic game against the Bruins for the Montreal winger, his first since his season was ended after Zdeno Chara checked him into a Bell Centre stanchion. The violent crash into the turnbuckle ended with Pacioretty unable to move on the ice with a fractured neck vertebrae and a severe concussion, and with rabid Montreal fans calling for criminal charges against the Bs captain in what the NHL ultimately termed a hockey play unworthy of supplemental discipline.
Everybody remembers the March 8 game in Montreal that ended the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Connecticut natives year. Everybody remembers the Dr. Recchi jokes in Quebec when the future Hall of Fame winger took issue with Pacioretty going to the movies just days after being diagnosed with a concussion. Everybody remembers the boos and CNN crews following Chara like he was Frankensteins monster when the hit made the 6-foot-9 defenseman out to be Public Enemy No. 1 in Montreal.
So there are natural narratives for Pacioretty and Chara headed into Thursday nights epic tilt between the Bruins and the Canadiens, but the Bs players arent really worried about any one individual Canadiens player given their 3-5 start to their season.
Theyve got to get back on the winning way, and quell the chatter about Stanley Cup hangovers and substandard offense.
Chara didnt address the media on Thursday, but said on Wednesday hed basically turned the page, whether Pacioretty was on the ice or in the stands.
Im just excited to play the game, said Chara without fully addressing the Pacioretty end of the question. The games are huge. These games are big. Im not even talking about the rivalries. Im just talking about the standings.
Im sure where both teams are they are going to be good games for both teams. Itll be one of those games everyone will be really ready for it. Those games are exciting to play against each other, but theyre also very important games. We dont want to fall any deeper in the standings.
Mix their lackluster opening month with last springs seven game battle between the two teams in the first round of the playoffs, and there are plenty of factors that make these games interesting without rehashing the Pacioretty hit.
Most would argue that the bloodbath game between Montreal and Boston in February of last season with 182 penalty minutes, no less isnt going to happen on the Garden ice tonight no matter which way the game trends. The points are too important to a pair of hockey clubs that had high aspirations heading into the year, but are shooting themselves in the foot in October.
Its going to be a great challenge for both sides, said Kelly. Were both not where we want to be in the standings, and it gives us a great opportunity to play six plus periods against each other where there is some history there.
But what about Pacioretty?
I dont anticipate there being anything. Both Pacioretty and Chara are playing well right now, said Kelly. Its good to see Pacioretty back playing and to see Chara at 100 percent.
I honestly forgot about it. I thought about the playoffs more with Montreal and that seven game series that was one of the best series Ive ever been a part of. That was on my mind more than the Pacioretty hit.
Thursday should be about the Habs and Bruins simply needing a win to stay out of the Northeast Division cellar, not settling individual scores. It could also be a coming out party for a player in Pacioretty thats leading the Canadiens with four goals and nine points this season. That would match Tyler Seguin for Bostons team lead in points, and is more goals that anybody in a Black and Gold uniform this season.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said that the bottom line with Pacioretty is hes healthy and playing well, and the Bruins were happy to see a fellow hockey player able to come back from serious injuries.
The one thing were happy about and that would be for anyone else is that hes healthy, said Julien. "As a player in the league you dont want to see somebody end their career in an unfortunate accident. But what you want to see is a player come back and be healthy.
As far as thats concerned, hes healthy, weve turned the page and now its time to move on.
If anybody knows about unfortunate incidents its the Bruins as they've ssen Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron both felled for long periods of time due to concussions. Luckily for the Habs and Pacioretty, the after-effects of his injury seem to be nothing like the long-term effects on Savard. Much like Bergeron, the Habs forward has returned to full health with last years nasty collision firmly in the rear view mirror.