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Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens Game 1 Preview

Jesse Connolly previews Game 1 as archrivals Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens get set to do battle in the second round of the NHL Playoffs.

PK Subban
PK Subban

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

After vanquishing a feared foe in the Detroit Red Wings in just five games, the Bruins are set to begin their second-round series against archrival Montreal on Thursday night at TD Garden. They may be doing so without second-line winger Brad Marchand.

Boston’s resident agitator did not take part in practice Wednesday and wasn’t present for morning skate Thursday.

“Took his option,” coach Claude Julien offered when asked about No. 63’s absence.

Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald reported that Marchand sounded “under the weather” Wednesday.

Marchand’s production has certainly been lacking over Boston’s last two playoff series. He failed to register a point in the five-game set against the Wings. Last year, the Blackhawks held him off the score sheet in all six games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Nevertheless, missing Marchand would be a big blow for the Black and Gold. The 5-foot-9 forward scored 25 goals this season, with only one of those tallies coming on the power play. Furthermore, Marchand was a big factor in Boston’s series victory over the Habs back in 2011, as he registered five points in seven games.

The B’s did have some good news to offer Thursday, however, as Dan Paille — out since the penultimate game of the regular season — is a game-time decision.

“I’ve been fully cleared, but it’s coach’s decision,” Paille, who wouldn’t label his injury as a concussion, told the Taunton Gazette. “I’ll wait and see and hopefully get a good vibe out of it. We’ve played very well so far and when I do come in, if it’s tonight, I’m going to try not to change things.”

Rask vs. Price

The Montreal-Boston series will pit the goaltender who backstopped Canada to gold in Sochi, Carey Price, against the one who led Finland to bronze, Tuukka Rask. The two have had polar-opposite track records against one another’s NHL squads.

Rask comes in 3-10-3 lifetime against Montreal with a 2.63 goals-against average.

“I’ve had some tough games against (the Canadiens),” Rask told NESN Wednesday, “but I’ve had some good games against them, too.”

The B’s netminder went 1-2-1 with a .932 save percentage against the Habs in 2013-14. Price comes in with a 17-8-3 lifetime record against Boston.

Third lines key

Much has been made about the key role Boston’s third line will play in determining whether the Bruins can go on a long playoff run. So far, so good. Carl Soderberg was among the best players against Detroit and formed a tremendously-effective trio at both ends of the ice alongside Loui Eriksson and rookie Justin Florek.

But the Habs’ third forward unit was even better in the first round. Rene Bourque, Lars Eller, and captain Brian Gionta combined for 11 points in the series sweep of the Lightning. The Bruins will rely heavily on Zdeno Chara and D partner Johnny Boychuk to shut down the Habs’ top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek. The B’s blueliners will have their hands full if Montreal’s depth forwards are just as potent as they were in Round 1.

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