WILMINGTONThe Bruins arent going to shy away from their punishing, physical style, but theyre certainly not coming into Thursday nights regular-season finale with revenge on their minds.
The 1-3-1 record in five previous games against Montreal might be somewhere in the collective conscience, and the ability to push their divisional lead to five points in the Northeast Division is one of the first orders of Bs business.
We prepare for it to get the two points, just like every other game, said Andrew Ference, who has played in dozens of Habs-Bruins games over the last five seasons. Thats the reality of it. Its not good for writing, but thats the way it is. They are all intense games when you see the same guys over and over again, and if you happen to be tight in the standings then those games are always intense.
As for adventure and excitement, the Bruins don't crave these things against the Habs.
Everybody talks about revenge and whats going to happenand the build-up, said Milan Lucic. Im sure theyre saying the most important thing for them is getting the two points, and Im sure for them the most important is getting the two points because theyre right behind us in the standings.
Thats the only thing in mind for us: to create more of a separation between us and them. All of our focus is going into the game and building on what we did against the Devils, a 4-1 win on Tuesday night.
The Bs perhaps got a little gun shy in the next few games following the Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty incident in Montreal as the long road wore them down, and some truly disconcerting losses followed. The Bruins cant afford to lose their nerve or deviate from their pounding physical style against Montreal, and need to fully utilize their size and strength against the speedy, skilled Habs.
Its the classic battle of two hockey teams with different strengths, and it hasnt been a good match for Boston during the regular season. The Bruins hope to impose their will on Montreal as they havent been able to all season, and set the tone for a likely first round playoff grudge match between both legendary rivals.
The NHL has assigned a pair of respected veteran refs to preside over the TD Garden ice, and both GMs were taken aside by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman with the hopes of avoiding another 187 penalty minute extravaganza. Given the gravity of the two points, it isnt expected to devolve into an utter gong show as the last game did.
But the Bruins are unapologetically brutish on the ice.
I dont think theres any reason why we should shy away from the physicality, said Lucic. I think the NHL will be watching. Obviously the last game at home there was a lot of stuff going on, and who is to say there wont be a lot of stuff going on in this one.
As of now theyre looking at every game for something to happen. Theyve been a tough opponent this year . . . and we want to end this season series off on a good note.
Zdeno Chara was asked if he expected any of the Canadiens players to come after him during Thursday nights, and said he didnt know. Its doubtful that anybody on the Montreal roster is feeling frisky enough to challenge Chara. Any extracurricular activity would be with other members of Bostons roster.
All in all Chara has handled all of the attention, questions and Montreal vitriol with admirable strength, and has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) and a plus-5 in the six games since his collision with Max Pacioretty at the Bell Centre.
I dont know. Youd have to ask Montreal that question because any retribution would be coming from their end, wouldnt it? said coach Claude Julien. I think Chara had a solid game the other night. I think Zee has handled himself as well as he possibly can and hes fine. In moving forward there is a lot to work on and build on, and thats where our focus is.
Bruins president Cam Neely seemed to insinuate that one of Bostons goaltenders really needed to rise up and seize the starting spot for the playoffs, and Tim Thomas made a big statement with 30 saves in the win over the New Jersey Devils. Thomas career numbers against the Canadiens arent even close to his best, and the 9-14 record, .904 save percentage and 3.16 goals against average are among the worst career numbers against any NHL team.
Youve got to look at the bigger picture and look at the way that the team played. If your team doesnt play well and you always rely on your goaltender to be there every night, and I think its a combination of all of us, said Julien. We all have to be better. Thats what we have to focus on: being a better hockey club than weve been against this team this year.
The Bruins signed defenseman Marc Cantin to an entry-level contract. Cantin, a 6-foot-1, 201-pound native of Omemee, Ontario, had 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) and 78 PIMs in 61 games for the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors of the Ontario Hockey League. In 249 career OHL games with Mississauga St. Michaels, Windsor and Belleville, the 20-year-old has 80 points and 278 PIMs.
He also was invited to, and participated in, last summers Bruins Development Camp at Ristuccia Arena.