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Thursday, March 24th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (40-27-7) at Boston Bruins (40-22-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A crucial battle in the race for the Northeast Division title is on tap tonight in Boston, as the Bruins welcome the rival Montreal Canadiens to TD Garden.

Boston enters tonight's clash with a three-point lead and two games in hand over the Canadiens, giving the Bruins the inside track on winning the division crown.

However, the Habs have won four out of five this season against Boston and Montreal has claimed nine of 11 and 21 of the last 28 encounters overall. The Canadiens also have nine victories in their last 13 trips to Beantown.

The Canadiens won a 4-1 decision in Montreal the last time they faced the Bruins on March 8. That game was overshadowed by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara's controversial hit on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty.

Chara hit Pacioretty near the boards and forced him into a dangerous spot where a pane of glass separates the benches. Pacioretty's head hit the padded support before he tumbled straight to the ice.

Chara was handed a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct on the play, but the NHL did not fine or any suspend the big defenseman for his role in the collision. Meanwhile, Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion, as well as a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebrae and has not played since.

However, those expecting the Habs to try and get revenge for the Pacioretty hit tonight could be in for a disappointment. Habs veteran Scott Gomez warned against his team focusing on the Chara incident.

"This is when the older guys and the vets have to make sure the younger guys know you have to keep your emotions in check," Gomez said. "You don't want to get a penalty that's going to cost the team. What's done is done. The best revenge is to get two points, and that's all we're going for."

Montreal needs the points not just to try and catch the Bruins in the division race, but to also avoid falling in the Eastern Conference playoff push. The Canadiens are currently sixth in the East and three points in front of the seventh-seeded New York Rangers.

The Canadiens are coming off a loss on Tuesday, the club's fourth setback in seven games. Montreal was shut out 2-0 by the visiting Buffalo Sabres as Ryan Miller was spectacular in net with 31 saves.

Carey Price was the hard-luck loser in net for Montreal, making 22 saves on 23 shots.

"You have to give Miller credit. He played well and they played well in front of him," said Price. "In fact, both teams played well defensively."

The Canadiens are expecting to have forward Mathieu Darche back in the lineup tonight after he missed the last 15 games with a groin injury. Darche has nine goals and 21 points in 51 games this season.

Montreal forwards Jeff Halpern and Tomas Plekanec are both questionable for tonight's test with lower body injuries, while defenseman Brent Sopel could return after missing the last seven games with a hand issue. Sopel last played on March 8 against the Bruins.

The Bruins, meanwhile, won for just the second time in eight games (2-3-3) with Tuesday's 4-1 triumph against New Jersey. Chara posted a goal and two assists as Boston downed the visiting Devils at TD Garden.

Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi all scored for the Bruins and Tim Thomas was stellar between the pipes, making 30 saves.

"It doesn't matter who we were playing tonight, it was good to get back on the right track," said Thomas. "Being at home, it's nice what we were able to accomplish."

Tuesday's game marked the start of a three-game homestand for the Bruins, who are 17-12-5 as the host this year. Montreal has an 18-17-1 record on the road.

03/24 10:47:59 ET


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