Even in the regular season, it doesn’t get much better than Bruins vs. Canadiens. To get you set for their first meeting of 2013, we’ll point out some things to expect at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) besides Montreal getting the first power play of the night (which is a given in that building).
1. Montreal is not the same team they were last season, unfortunately
We all enjoyed watching the Canadiens circle the drain in 2011-12 and finish with the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Sadly, it looks like Montreal (6-2-0) is a different team this year as like the Bruins (6-1-1), they’ve taken advantage of a bunch of early home games (5-1-0). Tonight is the first of four games against Boston so Montreal will have plenty of chances to show that the Northeast Division won’t be a total romp for the B’s.
2. Will Brad Marchand play?
After he ran into the boards awkwardly on Saturday in Toronto, it didn’t seem like Marchand would be able to suit up against Montreal since he left the game and didn’t return. Still, Boston hasn’t played a game since then so he’s a game-time decision. Shawn Thornton (concussion) and Daniel Paille (upper body) didn’t make the trip so Providence Bruins Jamie Tardif and Lane MacDermid will be in the lineup once again. If Marchand is out, rookie Ryan Spooner would make his NHL debut. He was a second round pick by the B’s in 2010 that’s been playing well in Providence (9 goals, 21 assists in 35 games).
3. A cast of thousands
Judging by its early results, it doesn’t look like Montreal has a certain forward or line you have to be particularly scared of. Like Boston, they have exhibited depth with 12 players scoring goals already (Bruins have 13) while a pair of defensemen lead the Canadiens in points: Andrei Markov has four goals and four assists while Raphael Diaz has eight assists. It’s hard to predict what will happen in a rivalry game like this but Montreal has allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (17) while Boston is tied for second fewest (19) so a low-scoring game seems the most likely scenario. Montreal goaltender Carey Price (6-1-0, 1.70 GAA, .938 save percentage) and Boston’s Tuukka Rask (5-1-1, 2.10 GAA, .919 save percentage) are each capable of standing on their heads when necessary.