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The Northeast Division lead could change hands tonight

Mar 22, 2011, 1:48 PM EDT

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Ryan White Johnny Boychuk AP

While the Boston Bruins are clearly still in the driver’s seat for the Northeast Division title, the Montreal Canadiens could take a slim lead if things work out for them tonight. Let’s take a look at their scenarios today.

1. Boston Bruins (39-22-10 for 88 pts; 71 Games Played)

Tuesday game: Home vs. the New Jersey Devils.

2. Montreal Canadiens (40-26-7 for 87 pts; 73 GP)

Tuesday game: Home vs. the Buffalo Sabres.

As you can see, both the Bruins and Canadiens host teams who need the points more than they do. Boston faces the desperate Devils while the Habs take on the streaking Sabres.

If Montreal wins and Boston loses during regulation, the Canadiens would briefly gain a lead in the division. As you can see, they have the win advantage (40 to 39) while the Bruins boast the priceless distinction of holding two more games in hand.

The big picture outlook:

While the Bruins’ lead is obviously a big part of why they should be the odds-on favorite to win the Northeast, their remaining schedule is the other major reason. They play six of their next seven games at home and eight of their last 11 in Boston overall. One of those home games is their final match with Montreal on Thursday, by the way.

The Habs, meanwhile, play four home and five away games in their final nine contests. That’s not a brutal last few games, but they definitely don’t have the same golden opportunity that the Bruins stare at right now.

So overall, the smart money is on Boston, but you really never know. It should be a fun race to watch.

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