Posted February 15, 2012 on
AP on Fox
Just over a month ago, the Boston Bruins were surging towards the top of the Eastern Conference at the expense of the Northeast Division rival Montreal Canadiens.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions have fallen considerably back in the race since.
Fresh off being shut out in another loss, the Bruins open this season-high six-game road trip looking to generate some momentum with another victory against the Canadiens on Wednesday night.
Boston (34-18-2) capped an 11-2-0 stretch by beating Montreal 2-1 on Jan. 12, putting the Bruins one point back of the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
They're 6-7-1 since, and were blanked for the third time in six games Tuesday, falling 3-0 to the Rangers at home. Boston is now nine points behind New York for the East lead.
"It's certainly not good enough for the Boston Bruins," coach Claude Julien said. "Somehow we've got to use the road trip here to turn things around."
Starting the trip in Montreal (23-25-9) would seem to be a good way to begin regrouping. The Bruins hold a 3-2-0 advantage on the Canadiens in the season series, winning three in a row, including a 1-0 victory at Bell Centre behind 33 saves from Tim Thomas on Nov. 21.
Thomas, who also had 33 saves in last month's meeting, has won seven of his last nine starts against Montreal, including four of five as the Bruins ousted the Canadiens in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs last season.
He also has a 1.00 goals-against average in starting each of the last three meetings against Montreal.
Thomas wasn't nearly as sharp Tuesday, stopping 17 of 20 shots against the Rangers. Despite that performance, Julien may opt to start him again since backup Tuukka Rask has lost five in a row to Montreal with a 3.45 GAA.
Tyler Seguin leads the Bruins with 44 points, and his 20 goals are tied for first with Milan Lucic. However, the second-year center has managed just one goal in seven games.
The Canadiens may be looking forward to just getting back on the ice after a heated exchange between assistant Randy Ladouceur and struggling star center Scott Gomez at Tuesday's practice.
Ladouceur apparently was upset at what he considered a lack of intensity during a drill. Gomez is among the league's highest-paid players with a $7.3 million annual salary cap hit, but has only one goal.
The spat continued for several minutes, first in front of other players before they left to exchange words in a corner.
"I screwed up on the drill and he (Ladouceur) let me know about it," Gomez said. "I'm sure everyone has had their boss yell at them, it's just that mine is in front of a bunch of cameras and that's the way it is.
"It's not the first time, it's not the last time. It's part of hockey, it happens all the time and right now it just shows you how crucial it is right now."
Pressure may be mounting on the Canadians, who are outside of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They had their season high-tying four-game winning streak snapped Monday, surrendering three unanswered goals in the third period to fall 5-3 to Carolina, the team at the bottom of the conference standings.
Max Pacioretty, the team leader with 23 goals and 43 points, has four goals and one assist during a three-game scoring streak. The left wing, though, has just one assist in the past six meetings with Boston, including three home games where he was blanked.
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