Bruins, Canadiens shake off rust to resume rivalry
Fatigue won't be an issue when the Boston Bruins play the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday.
The Bruins (23-10-7) and the Canadiens (18-20-4) are playing their first games after their league-mandated five-day break.
This is the first meeting since Claude Julien was fired as Bruins coach last February and took over the Canadiens after the Habs fired Michel Therrien on Feb. 14.
Bruce Cassidy replaced Julien in Boston and the Bruins are 41-18-8 since. It all adds to a great rivalry that will play out three times in the next eight days (Saturday; Wednesday in Boston; Jan. 20 in Montreal).
"We know that he's done such a good job and great work for us while he was in Boston," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of Julien on the team's Twitter account. "Now he's on a new mission and a new job. He's got to do what he's got to do and we've got to do what we have to do."
The Bruins, second in the Atlantic Division, will be trying to earn at least a point for the 12th game in a row (8-0-3). The Bruins are coming off a 6-5 loss in overtime at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
The Canadiens won two games in a row heading into their five-game break, 2-1 in a shootout against the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 4 and 5-2 against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
The Canadiens are in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, eight points behind the Carolina Hurricanes who hold the second wild card position.
"It's a big week," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron told the team's website. "We don't have to talk about it too much. We know what's at stake. We all know Montreal is trying to climb back in and we've got to find a way to push them back down.
"It's always big games against them and we like the rivalry and the way those games are usually played."
"It's so crucial for us to get out of the break and continue to play the way we did before the break," Chara said. "It's big two weeks coming up, playing three times against Montreal. Those are going to be very important games for us, very heated rivalry games, so we are looking forward to it."
Julien tweaked one of his top lines for practice Friday, moving Charles Hudon to right wing in Artturi Lehkonen's spot with Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk. Lehkonen skated with Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault.
Rookie defenseman Victor Mete, who won a gold medal with Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, practice with the Canadiens on Friday (he was paired up with veteran David Schlemko and appeared to be part of the top six) and Julien said he will play. The Canadiens still have the option of returning him to junior with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
"If we kept him here, we certainly expect to play him," Julien told The Montreal Gazette. "That's one thing. The rest, we haven't looked any further than that. Those decisions down the road will probably belong more to upper management than us and we'll be part of that discussion. But right now, I just have a guy at my disposal that I'm going to utilize the best way I can."
The Canadiens will be playing the fourth contest of a five-game homestand. Eight of the Canadiens 11 games in January are at home where the Canadiens are 11-8-3 this season.
Canadiens forward Ales Hemsky, who has been out since Oct. 20 with concussion like symptoms, practiced Friday, but no date has been set for his return.
Updated January 13, 2018