More may be on the line for Montreal in latest Bruins-Canadiens battle

January, 13, 2009
Josh Gorges could feel it in practice Monday. The Montreal defenseman felt an air of electricity among his teammates as they prepared for Boston.

The fourth episode of Habs-Bruins, circa 2008-09, goes down Tuesday night in Boston.

"I was looking around and watching guys practice. Guys had a lot of life and a little more energy than you usually see, especially on a Monday morning," Gorges told on Monday evening after arriving in Boston. "I even talked about it with Mike Komisarek on the bus from the airplane here in Boston. I told him, 'Tomorrow is going to be a great game. I'm excited to play these guys.'

"You like playing against teams that are playing well and at the top of the standings. It's a challenge. This is going to be an exciting game. I think both teams will be jacked up."

It's a long grind, an 82-game season, but games like these are easy to focus for. These are the top two teams in the Northeast Division, and they are bitter Original Six rivals.

"We obviously don't like each other too much. That's what makes the rivalry so good," Bruins star center Marc Savard told "Even as a kid watching it, I know what's gone on in past years. It makes it that much more fun to be part of it, and I can't wait."

"It's definitely a big game," said Gorges, one of Montreal's top blueliners. "We know what they're capable of and the season that they are having. They're a good team. And besides the season that both teams are having, you look at the history of Boston and Montreal and it's always hard-fought, tight games.

"Between the two teams, no one wants to give an inch. It's going to be a lot of fun Tuesday night."

The Habs have rolled off an 8-1-1 stretch in their past 10 games, but still can't make a dent in Boston's 10-point lead atop the division and conference. The Bruins have been flying high all season long, but especially after taking a pair of games from Montreal in November. The Canadiens took the opener between the two clubs in October.

The two November wins, including a 6-1 thumping of the Habs on Nov. 13, ended what had been the Canadiens' absolute mastery over the Bruins. Montreal won 12 of 15 total games against the Bruins last season: all eight in the regular season and four of seven in their first-round playoff series.

"It really helped our confidence," said Savard when asked about the November wins over Montreal. "Obviously, we struggled against them last year in the regular season, although we got some confidence in the playoffs when we finally beat them. But that win at home [on Nov. 13] really propelled us."

The Canadiens knew the Bruins were coming on entering this season.

"Especially with the team they have," Gorges said. "They've got a lot of good players, and I think they're well-coached. They play a great system and they play as a team. It's not just one line. It seems like all four lines are clicking for them, and that's something we have to be ready for."

We were at the last game between these two teams, a 3-2 Bruins shootout victory Nov. 22 in Montreal. It was playoff hockey. Expect more of the same tonight. And, for Montreal, there might be a little more on the line. The Habs need to prove there's still a race for the Northeast.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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