BOSTON -- The rivalry returns to Causeway Street.
When the puck drops between the Boston Bruins (21-7-3) and Montreal Canadiens (20-7-5) at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday night at TD Garden, first place in the Northeast Division will be at stake. Currently, both teams have 45 points but Montreal has the advantage because it has more regulation wins (18) than Boston (16).
"Where we are in the standings, and we're playing a divisional game, but also it's a huge game," Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. "It's always a fun game against them, but it's always a hard game so we need to make sure we're ready for that."
It's been a tight battle between the storied franchises during this lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule, and with one month remaining in the regular season it's only going to get more interesting.
"This is the third time in a row that we have played them and for the third time it's for first place in the division," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "It just makes for a much better game."
When the rivals are both playing well, they have similar strengths. Both possess strong goaltending, a well-rounded defensive game and a potentially explosive offense.
After the Montreal organization crash-landed in last place a season ago, the Canadiens have witnessed a resurgence under coach Michel Therrien. In their past 10 games, the Habs are 6-3-1 and they've played better on the road with an 11-3-2 record.
The first time these teams played this season, the Bruins posted a 2-1 come-from-behind win on Feb. 6 at Bell Centre. Boston trailed by a goal, but scored twice in the third period for the victory.
Montreal beat Boston in the most recent meeting on March 3 at the Garden. The Canadiens scored two third-period goals en route to a 4-3 win. They're receiving strong goaltending from starter Carey Price, who is 16-5-4 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
The Bruins are 6-4-0 in their past 10 games with an 11-2-1 record on home ice. They haven't played their best of late and are struggling to score goals on a consistent basis.
After a 3-2 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at the Garden, coach Claude Julien said it was a "gutsy" victory for his team. He added fatigue has been a factor in the team's lack of consistency, so the coach decided to give the players Tuesday off. The much-needed R&R should help since the Canadiens played at Pittsburgh Tuesday night.
Boston is looking to improve on one thing for the stretch run.
"Consistency," captain Zdeno Chara said after Monday's game. "At this time of the year, that's what everybody's looking for -- consistency and having the right approach toward the end of the season and obviously the playoffs."
What the Bruins need is a good old-fashioned, Garden-style win over the Canadiens on Wednesday night.