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Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Bruins, Habs battle for top spot in Northeast

Feb 6, 2013, 7:57 AM EDT

Montreal vs Boston Getty Images

Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Boston Bruins will head to the Bell Centre for a match against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Boston and Montreal had some serious question marks heading into this season, but also plenty of promise and so far the latter has won out. Both of these teams have been fantastic through eight games.

For Boston, the big story has been goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has flawlessly transitioned into the number one gig after Tim Thomas’ decision to take a season off. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Rask is how he responded to surrendering six goals on 31 shots against Buffalo on Thursday. Rather than letting it get to him, he came right back with a 21-save shutout over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Montreal has also gotten great goaltending out of Carey Price, but that alone hasn’t led the Canadiens to a 6-2-0 start. One of the big differences for Montreal this season has been the rise of rookie forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. The duo has combined to record four goals and 12 points. Their addition has gives Montreal a lot of different offensive weapons and makes them a threat to score at all times.

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The return of 34-year-old defenseman Andrei Markov, who played in just 65 games over the previous three seasons due to injuries, has also been huge for Montreal. He’s finally healthy and already has re-established himself as one of the league’s best offensive defenseman, especially with the man advantage.

The Boston Bruins will counter with the depth that they’ve been known for over the last few years. If anything they’re looking stronger this season now that Nathan Horton is healthy after missing roughly half of the 2011-12 campaign with a concussion. They also have a thriving rookie of their own in 19-year-old blueliner Dougie Hamilton.

Just a point separates these two squads early in the battle for the Northeast Division as both teams look to build off of their strong starts.

Probable goaltenders: MON – Price (6-1-0, 1.70 GAA, .938 SV%) | BOS – Rask (5-1-1, 2.10 GAA, .919 SV%)

Top scorers: MON – Markov and Raphael Diaz are tied with eight points in eight games. | BOS – David Krejci (2-5-7, 8 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Montreal – Forwards: Petteri Nokelainen (back)
Boston – Forwards: Brad Marchand (shoulder), Daniel Paille (eye), Shawn Thornton (concussion), Marc Savard (concussion)

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