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Bruins expect Montreal's best on Thursday

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 16-19-7 record, the Canadiens certainly aren't the Vancouver Canucks. But despite Montreal's struggles, the Bruins are expecting a spirited battle in Thursday night’s contest at the Garden.

The Bruins took the ice for practice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday morning with that knowledge in mind, aware of the fact that anything can be expected in this 87-year-old Original Six rivalry.

“It doesn’t matter what their situation is, they always play well against us,” noted head coach Claude Julien. “They know they can, and they come in with lots of confidence and then they give us tough games. Every time we’ve beat them, we’ve had to play really good hockey, and that’s what we have to be prepared to do tomorrow.”

Thursday’s tilt with the Canadiens is Boston’s final contest of a four-game homestand. On Saturday, the Bruins will kick off a five-game road trip when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes. Both Julien and Bruins forward Milan Lucic stressed the importance of ending Boston’s home stretch on positive terms, especially against a team like Montreal.

“Going on the road, you want to go out there feeling good about yourselves, and obviously when we play the Montreal Canadiens, there’s never a lack of emotions on both sides,” said Lucic. “We know they’re a desperate hockey club right now, so they’re a team that plays well against us, whether it's in Montreal or Boston. We’re going to expect their best and we need to bring our best as well.”

Thursday night represents the fifth of six meetings between the two teams this year. Montreal capitalized on the Boston’s early-season struggles by winning the first two match-ups in late October, but the Bruins have won the last two contests.

All but one of their games this season have been decided by one goal.

“The one thing they seem to do is give us good games all the time,” said Julien.

“Just like certain teams match up better than others, and I think they feel confident when they play against us. They play a style that gives us some issues, and we have to really battle hard to beat those guys.”

Marchand practices

The Bruins will face the Canadiens without Brad Marchand, who will sit out the second game of his five-game suspension on Thursday night. During Wednesday's practice, Marchand skated with the third line of Zach Hamill, Chris Kelly, and Rich Peverly, as Benoit Pouliot took his place once again on a line alongside Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron.

“He’s got to stay sharp,” stressed Julien about Marchand’s activity during his suspension. “He’s got to work harder than anybody else during practice.”

“It’s not a bad thing, though, to play with other players on your team too. It’s going to happen at some point, but he’s just got to stay sharp. We want him to be with us and be in practice situations so he can stay as sharp as he can,” added Julien.