- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins, who are 5-0-1 in their last six games and trying to finish strong before the Olympic break, will host the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season Thursday night at TD Garden.
The last time these rivals met, a 2-1 Montreal victory Dec. 5 at Bell Centre in Montreal, defenseman Johnny Boychuk was taken off the ice on a stretcher with a back injury early in the first period. Despite playing with five defensemen for the majority of the game, the Bruins controlled play in the first and third period, but imploded in the second as the Canadiens scored two unanswered goals en route to victory.
After that game, Bruins coach Claude Julien was furious with his team's lackluster performance in the second period.
Lately, the Bruins have been playing better team hockey, with all four lines contributing. Julien wants his team to continue that style of play regardless of who it's facing.
"Right now it’s really important that we continue to look at our game. Our game’s been good, but it’s always a good game against the Montreal Canadiens, and it’s always been a great rivalry," Julien said. "But let’s not look at it so much as a rivalry more than we need to continue bringing our game to the table every night that we’re playing this week, and finish it off on a good note here with five games left before the Olympic break. And that’s where our whole focus is. You’ve got to try to not get dragged into this big buildup that we have every time we play them."
After the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at TD Garden, goaltender Tuukka Rask described the team's overall play as solid. It will be interesting to see if Rask starts against the Canadiens, or if Julien decides to give backup Chad Johnson the nod. Rask has posted a 2-9-2 record in 13 career games against the Habs.
At the other end of the ice, Montreal's Carey Price, who made 32 saves against the Bruins on Dec. 5, is 17-8-3 in 28 career games against Boston.
"We lost the first game in their building, so obviously we feel like we owe them a good game," said Bruins forward David Krejci, who has nine points in the last six games. "We don't want to focus too much into rivalry stuff, we just want to go out there and have a good game and get two points."
It's a bit odd that the Bruins have played more than half the season and Thursday will be only the second time they've played the Canadiens.
"The schedule has been a little bit all over the place. For sure, it’s going to be a big game," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "We have a few left before the Olympic break, so we want to for sure finish on a strong note."