Canadiens-Bruins Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 19, 2011
The Boston Bruins continue to be the hottest team in the NHL. Their biggest rival, meanwhile, is experiencing nothing but frustration. Coming off perhaps their best performance of the season, the Bruins look to extend their winning streak to five when they host the struggling Canadiens on Monday night. Boston (21-9-1) has won 18 of 21 to join Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference with 43 points. That stellar stretch includes a 1-0 win at Montreal on Nov. 21, and a 9-1-1 record at TD Garden. The Bruins' domination showed few signs of slowing Saturday, as they pounded the Flyers for four first-period goals en route to a 6-0 road victory. "You can't ever plan that - those are some of those fortuitous things that happen to a team sometimes," goaltender Tim Thomas told the team's official website. "The important thing was how we reacted to it. We got the 4-0 lead and tried to shut it down for the rest of the night, and we didn't give an opportunity to a great team, like Philly, to get back into the game." While Boston appears an early favorite to defend its Stanley Cup title, the Canadiens (13-13-7) are at the bottom of the Northeast Division as they get set to open a season-high six-game road trip. They lost for the eighth time in 11 games (3-4-4) Saturday and were booed off the ice following a 5-3 home defeat to New Jersey, hours after Randy Cunneyworth replaced the fired Jacques Martin behind the bench. "No one in here is happy right now," center Lars Eller told the team's official website. "It's frustrating because I know this team can be so much better and we expect a lot more from ourselves. "No blaming injuries, coaches, nothing. We have to look to ourselves and the bottom line is we have to be better." Turning this stretch around will be a tall order, as Montreal visits NHL-leading Chicago on Wednesday after facing the red-hot Bruins. "We have a huge game on Monday and Boston doesn't feel sorry for us," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "Nobody in the league feels sorry for us so we can't feel sorry for ourselves." Some production from Tomas Plekanec would surely help. The center leads the Canadiens with 25 points, but has one with a minus-4 rating in his last four games. He has two goals and one assist in three season meetings with the Bruins, netting the eventual game-winner midway through the third period of a 2-1 victory at Boston on Oct. 27. Erik Cole had the other tally in that matchup. He was held without a point by the Devils, snapping his four-game scoring streak that included four goals and two assists. The Bruins have outscored opponents 19-5 during a four-game winning streak, with Rich Peverley collecting a team-high six points in that stretch. Peverley tied his career high with three points Saturday, but has only one in the past five regular-season meetings with Montreal. Zdeno Chara had a goal and an assist against the Flyers in his return from a lower-body injury that sidelined him two games. Boston's captain ranks among the league scoring leaders among defensemen with seven goals and 21 points. "He's solid and as much as we missed him, it was a good rest for him - playing the kind of minutes he does - he seemed fresh (Saturday)," coach Claude Julien said.
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