|Bruins and Canadiens square off with first place on the line||01.08.11 at 8:52 am ET|
First place in the Northeast division is on the line as the Bruins (21-12-6) take on the Canadiens (22-16-3) at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. The Habs have taken both of the contests between the rival teams thus far this season, with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas taking losses on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16, respectively.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Wild at the Garden on Thursday. It was their first regulation loss since being blanked by the Ducks on Dec. 20.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Canadiens are 13-5-3 at the Bell Centre, and their 29 home points are second only to the Capitals’ 33 in the Eastern conference. Following their Dec. 16 4-3 win over the B’s, they spent seven games on the road and have returned to Montreal with an overtime loss to the Thrashers on Sunday and a shootout win over the Penguins on Thursday.
– While this game features one of the league’s best home teams, it also features one of the best road teams in the Bruins. The B’s 12-5-3 road mark is among the best in the conference, as only the Flyers and Rangers have more points (29 apiece) on the road this season.
– New Habs defenseman James Wisniewski has five points — two goals and three assists — in four games since joining the Canadiens. He was a minus-18 with the Islanders this season, but playing for a winning team has changed that a bit. Wisniewski hasn’t posted a negative rating in any of his games with Montreal since being acquired from New York for second and fifth-round picks.
– Who would have thought that Steven Kampfer would be the hottest Bruins scorer over the last five games? The rookie defenseman has scored the first three goals of his career over the span, including a second-period tally against the Wild in which he sent a rebound from a Patrice Bergeron shot past Jose Theodore.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– There’s no bigger story than what this game means in the standings. The B’s have been in first place since beating the Panthers back on Dec. 27. Since then, they have opened a three-point lead in the Northeast and seen it shrink to one point. The the Bruins have played have played multiple games less than most of the other teams in the Eastern conference, the fact that their division-leading 48 points is worse than those of six other teams in the conference should be eye-opening enough to illustrate how important winning the division is to being in a good spot when the playoffs roll around.
[UPDATE: Horton is not expected to play, as Julien told reporters Saturday that he is “very unlikely” to go.]
If Horton plays, it seems he will do so on a new line. Julien flip-flopped Horton and Michael Ryder, meaning Horton is with Blake Wheeler and David Krejci, while Ryder will play with Milan Lucic on a line centered by Marc Savard.
– Though he has battled his way in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch this season, Habs rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has been a pain in the Bruins’ you-know-what. The 21-year-old Toronto native scored his first career goal back on Nov. 11 at the Garden and most recently laid a crushing hit on Brad Marchand that led to the winger leaving the following game vs. Washington and then missing the next three.
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– This is a bear of a stretch for the B’s, as their four games following Saturday includes two games against the Penguins and one against the Flyers. It’s one their schedule’s toughest stretches of the season (they’ve got another one coming up in February that includes games against the Stars, Sharks, Habs, and Red Wings) and a good test of how far this team has come since snapping out of its mid-December funk.