Game Day Preview: Bruins at Canadiens
The aftermath of the 2016 Winter Classic hasn’t been too kind to the Boston Bruins. It’s been even worse for the victors of the NHL’s annual New Year’s Day event, the Montreal Canadiens.
Although the Black and Gold have won two straight, they are just 3-3-1 in the seven games since their porous effort at Gillette Stadium. As mediocre as that is, the Habs, who took over first place in the Atlantic Division with their 5-1 victory over their rivals, are 1-4-1 since January 1 and have fallen to the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins hold a narrow one point lead over the Canadiens as the two teams meet for the first time since the Winter Classic — in their final meeting of the 2015-16 regular season — tonight at the Bell Centre.
Both David Krejci and David Pastrnak joined their teammates on the trip to Montreal. Krejci has been ruled out by Claude Julien for tonight while Pastrnak is a game-time decision.
Gametime: 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 23-16-5 (51 points), Canadiens 23-19-4 (50 points)
Location: Bell Centre
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Loui Eriksson
Frank Vatrano-Joonas Kemppainen-Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo-Max Talbot-Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Morrow
Torey Krug-Kevan Miller
Canadiens projected lines
Max Pacioretty-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk-David Desharnais-Dale Weise
Tomas Fleischmann-Lars Eller-Paul Byron
Jacob De La Rose-Torrey Mitchell-Brian Flynn
Andrei Markov-P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin-Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu-Mark Barberio
Matchup to watch: Bergeron vs. Pacioretty line
With a returning Brendan Gallagher, the Habs top line of Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec and captain Max Pacioretty provided a huge spark at the Winter Classic. The trio combined for six points on the day with Pacioretty and Gallagher each tallying a goal and an assist.
As the Bruins try to pull ahead of the Habs by three points, their top priority in this one is not getting embarrassed by their archrivals. That all starts with the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Brett Connolly trying to keep Montreal’s trio in check. Assuming Claude Julien uses this matchup, the B’s will need Bergeron, Marchand and Connolly to set the tempo in all three zones.
With Michel Therrien’s club banged up by injuries, the Bruins have an opportunity to write the wrongs from the Winter Classic. That all starts by shutting down Gallagher, Plekanec and Pacioretty. Otherwise, history may repeat itself 18 days later.
Storyline to watch: Can the Bruins create distance from the Habs?
The Winter Classic debacle has been behind them for the past two weeks. While they would like to redeem themselves from that, the Black and Gold’s focus is clearly on the task in hand. That task is to separate themselves from the Canadiens in the standings as a win in regulation would put them ahead by three points with a game in hand on their rivals.
From Bergeron to Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask, the Bruins need their best players to step up in their last game with the Habs this regular season in a building that has not been kind to them over the years.