January 8, 2011

Division lead on the line for Bruins, Habs

Mathieu Darche lays a hit on Andrew Ference in the B's last visit to Montreal. (Getty)

Saying a lot is on the line for the Bruins in Montreal this evening would be a wild understatement.

 First place will be up for grabs in tonight's tilt between the Habs and B's at the Bell Centre, as Boston holds a one-point edge over their historic rival for the lead in the Northeast Division.

 A regulation loss would send the Black and Gold spiraling down from third in the Eastern Conference down to eighth.

 "It's one of those things where everything is so tight," coach Claude Julien said after the team's morning skate on Saturday.

 "To me, those are the kind of games you wanna play. You wanna play games that have real-good meaning at this time of year and are exciting to play. I think our players are excited to be here in this situation with a game that has a lot of meaning. Hopefully we're gonna respond well."

 The B's are 0-2 so far on the year against the Canadiens, dropping a 3-1 decision in Boston before falling short of a comeback in a 4-3 setback in Montreal.

 "I don't know if it's getting under our skin," Julien said when asked what caused the Bruins to be so frustrated after their last loss to the Habs.

 "I think it's more were frustrated with our game. There were situations where we felt we didn't have a really good start. We got behind the 8-ball and we had to fight our way back. We battled well in the second and third period, but we didn't have a good start."

 After a disappointing loss to the Wild at home on Thursday, the B's are looking to return to the form that saw them go on a 4-0-2 run in the previous six games.

 "I think we came back after the Chrismtas break and had a really tough road trip, five games in eight days and in five different cities," said Julien. "We got eight out of ten points and I thought that was a real good road trip for us. We got back home and -- obviously those games are always challenging -- we didn't respond as well as we should have and lost an important game to Minnesota.

 "Right now, it's about just being ready to bounce back, getting back on our horses and doing what we've done well since the Christmas break."

 One of the highlights in that loss to Minnesota was the performance of rookie d-man Steve Kampfer, as he buried his third goal in just five games.

 "We wanted some good puck movement from the back-end and he's certainly provided us with that," Julien said. "He's got good speed and he carries the puck well up the ice. That's one of the areas we identified as wanting to get better. He's provided us with some of that and, obviously the more experience he gets, the better he gets."

 While Kampfer will be part of Julien's arsenal, first-line winger is doubtful to suit up after suffering an undisclosed injury.

 "He's very unlikely for tonight," the coach said. "He's still day-to-day."

 Julien appears to be turning back to Tim Thomas tonight, after Tuukka Rask got the nod in the team's last two tilts.

 While Rask -- once again -- played more than well enough to earn a win, Julien knows he's in good hands no matter who he turns to.

 "Tuukka's record is certainly not reflective of his play," he said. "We lost a game last game where he was outstanding and gave us a chance to win. He's been very good. Obviously Tim's performance speaks for itself. His stats are obviously excellent and he's certainly been a big part of our success.

 "If there's anything we're extremely pleased with, it's our goaltending."