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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, January 12th (All times Eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (16-19-7) at Boston Bruins (27-11-1), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will meet for a fifth time this season, as the Northeast Division rivals collide tonight at TD Garden in Beantown.

Boston enters tonight in first place in the Northeast with 55 points -- 16 more than the cellar-dwelling Canadiens -- but the Habs and Bruins have split four meetings so far this season. Montreal beat the Bs twice in October before Boston evened the season series with two straight wins.

The Canadiens have taken 11 of the last 16 meetings in the regular season, but Boston has three victories in Montreal's previous four trips to TD Garden.

Outside of a 3-7 start to the year, the Bruins have looked very much like the defending Stanley Cup champions this season. Boston is 24-4-1 since the start of November and is leading the NHL this season in both goals per game (3.67) and fewest goals allowed per game (1.92).

Boston suffered a 4-3 regulation loss to visiting Vancouver on Saturday, as the Canucks exacted a small measure of revenge after losing the Stanley Cup Finals in seven games to the Bruins last spring. It was Boston's second regulation loss in five outings, but the Bruins rebounded with Tuesday's comeback win over visiting Winnipeg.

The Bruins trailed the Jets by a 3-2 count heading into the final 20 minutes, but Boston scored three unanswered goals in the third period to take the 5-3 decision. Nathan Horton scored twice and got Boston's third-period burst started by scoring just eight seconds into the final stanza.

Tyler Seguin, Shawn Thornton and Benoit Pouliot also had goals for the Bruins, while Tuukka Rask gave up three goals on 32 shots.

"We were fortunate to come out on top tonight," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "We were kind of slow coming out the gates and allowed them to get some easy ones there."

The Bruins won despite playing without key forward Brad Marchand, who served the first test of a five-game suspension for clipping Vancouver's Sami Salo on Saturday. Marchand is second on the team with 16 goals this year and is tied for third with 32 points.

Boston is 15-7-1 as the host this year and is completing a four-game homestand tonight.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, have lost five of their last six road games and are 9-11-1 as the guest this year. Montreal recently went 2-1 on a three-game homestand, but dropped the finale in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to St. Louis.

The visit by the Blues marked the return of ex-Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak to Montreal. Canadiens fans gave Halak a standing ovation after he posted 19 saves to record a shutout against his former club. Halak was traded to St. Louis months after he led the eighth-seeded Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010.

Halak was dealt to the Blues because of the presence of goaltender Carey Price in Montreal, but he outperformed Price on Tuesday as the Habs' current No. 1 netminder stopped 22-of-25 shots. It was Montreal's eighth loss in its last 11 games.

"Our offense wasn't sustained enough," said Montreal interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth. "It was too sporadic against a good team like that. If we were more consistent, we would have had more luck."

Following tonight's tilt, the Canadiens will return home for a three-game homestand that is set to begin Saturday against Ottawa.

01/12 10:51:00 ET

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