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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 20th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (40-24-10) at Boston Bruins (37-27-9), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A pair of Northwest Division foes will begin a home-and- home series with numerous playoff implications tonight, as the Montreal Canadiens visit the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Canadiens have 90 points and are first in the Northeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference standings. Montreal is just one point behind New Jersey for the East lead and can overtake the idle Devils in points tonight. However, after this evening's action New Jersey will have two games in hand over the Habs.

Montreal is also three points ahead of Ottawa for first place in the Northeast. The Senators will host St. Louis this evening.

The Bruins are seventh in the East with 83 points, but are just one ahead of Philadelphia for the conference's eighth and final postseason seed.

Montreal has dominated the recent series with Boston, winning all six meetings this year and nine straight dating back to last year. The Canadiens have also taken 16 of the last 19 encounters between the clubs and Montreal has won four in a row and seven of nine in Boston.

The clubs will meet Saturday night in Montreal.

The Canadiens were handed a close loss Tuesday against visiting St. Louis, as Brad Boyes scored the lone goal of the shootout to lift the Blues to a 4-3 decision at the Bell Centre.

In the second round of the shootout, Boyes' backhand attempt caromed off the inside of the left post, hit the stick of Habs netminder Jaroslav Halak and bounced over the goal line.

Manny Legace, who had denied Montreal's Saku Koivu in the first round, then turned aside shots by Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev to preserve the victory.

Chris Higgins, Mikhail Grabovski and Koivu each lit the lamp for the Habs, who have dropped three of their last five games. Halak turned aside 25-of-28 shots in the losing effort.

The Bruins, meanwhile, haven't played since they dropped a shootout decision Sunday at Washington. Viktor Kozlov scored in the third round of the deciding segment to lift the Capitals to the 2-1 decision at the Verizon Center.

Alexander Semin scored on the first attempt of the shootout, wristing the puck over Alexander Auld's glove. Washington goaltender Cristobal Huet stopped Chuck Kobasew, and both skaters missed in the second round. Kozlov then put a direct end to the game, as his snap shot went right by Auld.

Kobasew tallied for Boston, which has lost four of its last five contests. Auld stopped 32-of-33 shots in a losing effort.

The Bruins have played their last five games without top defenseman Zdeno Chara, who has been sidelined with an upper body injury. Chara, who has 48 points this year, is questionable for tonight's contest.

Boston is 19-14-4 as the hosts this season, while the Canadiens have an impressive 22-11-4 mark as the visiting team. Montreal has won two of three and five of its last seven on the road.

03/20 10:44:12 ET

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