Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Thursday, December 5, 2013
W2W4: Bruins at Canadiens, 7:30 ET

By Joe McDonald

MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins (18-7-2, 38 points) face the Montreal Canadiens (17-9-3, 37 points) for the first time this season Thursday night at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m.). Here’s what to watch for:

IT’S ABOUT TIME: This will be the first time this season the Bruins and Canadiens face off. Boston and Montreal are the top two teams in the Atlantic Division and this rivalry will heat up again once the puck drops. Players on both sides are genuinely excited for this game and it should be a typical high-intensity game between these two rivals. This is the 722nd all-time meeting between these teams with the Bruins having a 270-340-103-8 record. More recently, the Bruins are 0-2-1 in their last three games against the Canadiens.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: The Bruins have had four days between games since their 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last Saturday at TD Garden. Coach Claude Julien gave his players Sunday off with an optional practice on Monday. They’ve practiced the last two days and went through their normal morning skate on Thursday at Bell Centre. The Canadiens are coming off 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils Wednesday night in New Jersey. Montreal is 7-0-1 in its last eight games. Boston is 6-1-1 in its last eight games with a 10-2-2 record in the last 14.

MASKED MEN: Two of the best in the NHL will be in net tonight with Tuukka Rask facing Carey Price. Rask is 14-6-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. Price is 12-8-2 with a 2.00 and a .937. Rask has not played since a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Nov. 29. Price did not play against the Devils Wednesday night as backup Peter Budaj helped Montreal to a shootout win. Rask is 2-8-2 in 13 career games against the Canadiens. Price is 16-8-3 in 28 games against Boston.

STRONG START: Julien has emphasized the importance of a strong start against the Canadiens, especially at Bell Centre. As Julien explained after the team’s morning skate, the Canadiens are a tough team to rally against in at home. They do a good job protecting the lead if they can get it. If the Bruins want success Thursday, they have to start strong in the first period.

KRUG READY: Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who has been dealing with a minor lower-body injury since blocking a shot against the Blue Jackets Saturday in Boston, will be a game-time decision against the Canadiens, but all signs point to him being in the lineup. After the morning skate, Krug said he felt good and Julien admitted the young defenseman looked good during the skate. Julien went as far as to say he would be extremely surprised if Krug wasn’t able to play.