Bruins-Habs preview: First place on the line

Bruins-Habs preview: First place on the line
April 6, 2013, 6:45 pm
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MONTREAL -- The Bruins are clearly jacked and pumped with first place in the Northeast Division on the line and only a couple weeks’ worth of games remaining until the playoffs begin.

As it should be at the Bell Centre with Boston and Montreal about to do battle, and only a single point separating the Habs from the Black and Gold with the Bruins still holding a game in hand against the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge. This comes after Tuukka Rask allowed five goals in the last showdown against Montreal: a 6-5 shootout loss that was also the second time this season that Boston has blown a third period lead against their arch-rivals.
So there should be a little extra for everybody in a Spoked ‘B’ sweater, including Rask with lifetime numbers of 2-7-2 with an .898 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average coming off a game in which he allowed five goals against them. It will be a big game for a B’s goalie looking to head off a potential goalie controversy at the pass, and it will be a playoff-style match played at a fever pitch by everybody else.
“There will be [extra jump] on both sides. Everybody is excited about it. It’s really a big stepping stone for us to know whether we can take control of where we are, and get back to playing our game,” said Brad Marchand, who rarely lacks for excitement in any game he plays. “With the rivalry we hate this team, and they hate us. It will be a battle, and it’s a lot of fun to see who is going to come out on top.
“This is our team now. We want to continue to build our game to what it was before, and make sure that we are tough to play against. It’s time to make a statement here and climb back toward the top.

Hopefully we do that tonight.”
It won’t be perfect for Boston, of course. Montreal has largely enjoyed good health this season while the Bruins will be missing Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly and Adam McQuaid from their lineup. They’ll also be continuing the introduction process to the Bruins way of doing things for both Jaromir Jagr and Kaspars Daugavins.
“I just want to enjoy the game, and do everything I can to help,” said Jagr. “Anything I can do to help them win the game I’m going to make it happen.”
The Bruins have struggled against the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference, and sit 1-3-1 against the Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins this season in five tries against the fellow Eastern powerhouses. They’ll get one more crack at each of those teams, and that starts with Saturday night’s classic showdown between Boston and Montreal at a sure-to-be raucous Bell Centre.
Watching a 41-year-old future Hall of Famer like Jagr taking in the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry for the first time at the Bell Centre should be worth of the price of admission all by itself, and there’s a late season fight for first place that goes right along with it.

PLAYER IN NEED OF GETTING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Tuukka Rask has a 2-7-2 career record with a .898 save percentage and 2.90 goals against average vs. Montreal over the course of his career. His numbers are slightly better against the Habs at the Bell Centre, and he needs to continue that trend on Saturday night.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “Every game is going to be like a playoff game. We found that out [Thursday against New Jersey]. Every point is so important, it's even more important for team's that are fighting for the playoffs for the eighth or seventh spot. For us, we want to try to be in first place, so it's going to be a huge game. You want to get ready for the playoffs with games like that.” --Jaromir Jagr, looking forward to a Bruins/Habs battle for first place.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins have allowed three power play goals in the last two games, but still lead the NHL with a 91.9 percent success rate on the penalty kill this season. They were effective in neutralizing the Montreal Canadiens power play during their first few meetings and pressuring Andrei Markov to give up the puck from his point position, and the Bruins PK unit will need to once again play that kind of game to eliminate Montreal’s special teams as a factor. The Habs are seventh in the NHL on the PP and have gone 4-for-10 on the man advantage in their last four games – including two power play goals in a convincing win over Winnipeg.

STAT TO WATCH: 1-3-1—the Bruins’ record against the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins this season. They need a convincing win to prove they belong with the big boys in the Eastern Conference this year.

INJURIES: Adam McQuaid (shoulder strain), Patrice Bergeron (concussion) and Chris Kelly (broken left tibia) are out of the lineup with Kelly looking like a return to the B’s lineup is going to happen next week. The Canadiens are missing defenseman Raphael Diaz (concussion) and left wing Rene Bourque (concussion). Plekanec is officially considered day-to-day and is a game time decision.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Despite some success for Peter Budaj against the Bruins this season, Carey Price will get the starting nod for the Habs in an important divisional game against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask is hot after making 40 saves in a 1-0 shutout win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. Rask was the first Bruins goalie off the ice at morning skate, and will get the start for a Boston team looking to take sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division for the first time in months.