In the midst of their longest winning streak of the season, the Boston Bruins are pulling away in the Atlantic Division.
It’s been a while since they’ve had any luck doing the same against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins look to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the Canadiens by winning a sixth straight game overall Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.
Boston (42-17-5) scored seven goals in its last game before the Olympic break and hasn’t slowed down much since returning, putting up an average of 3.86 to rank among the league leaders.
The Bruins have averaged the most shots in the NHL since the break, sending 37.1 per game on net after finishing with 42 in Sunday’s 5-2 win at Florida.
"I didn’t even know (we’d won five straight)," said defenseman Torey Krug, who had one of Boston’s four third-period goals. "It’s one of those things where we’ve got a good group of leaders in this room and we have that mental approach to the game."
Boston has outshot its last four opponents 156-82 as it continues to put the pressure on Pittsburgh for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
"It’s important," Krug told the NHL’s official website. "It’s one of our goals. Obviously it’s not the main one, but we set our minds to something we want to accomplish it. It’s one of the things we think about."
The Bruins might need to change their approach against the Canadiens considering how this series has gone recently. Montreal (35-24-7) has won five straight in the series and outscored Boston 6-2 in a pair of victories this season.
The Canadiens chased Tuukka Rask halfway through a 4-1 win at TD Garden on Jan. 30 that was the third straight meeting in which they held the Bruins to one goal.
"I would say from what I remember, the worst game of the year," center Patrice Bergeron said after that loss. "And you can’t have success if you’re playing like that."
Peter Budaj was in net for the most recent meeting with Boston, and it appears he will be again for this one after Montreal ruled out Carey Price for Wednesday’s contest. Price, who aggravated a lower-body injury with Canada in Sochi but played the whole tournament, has returned to practice but isn’t yet ready to play.
"Carey is our best player – he’s our most important player," coach Michel Therrien said. "But that’s not an excuse. I think we’ve still been able to pick up some key points in his absence."
They didn’t get any in Budaj’s three starts on a four-game Western road trip, and he was pulled early in the second period of Saturday’s 4-0 loss at San Jose. Backup Dustin Tokarski was in net for the team’s only win of the trip – 4-3 in a shootout at Anaheim last Wednesday – before Montreal was outscored 9-2 against the Coyotes and Sharks.
Deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek is still looking for his first point with his new team, though Therrien remains confident that placing Vanek on a line with center Tomas Plekanec and fellow wing Brian Gionta will work.
He also worked with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais on the power play at Tuesday’s practice.
"It’s going to take a while to adjust, but the more you can practice and talk to the guys and your linemates," Vanek said. "Working on the power play is going to help out everyone I think."
Vanek’s 30 goals and 31 assists versus Boston are both his most against any team.
"Numbers are numbers. I can’t really tell you why that is," Vanek said. "It’s a big game, it’s a great team and you want to play in big games."
Bruins winger Daniel Paille will miss at least two games with what coach Claude Julien called a "minor concussion," while Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges is out four weeks with a broken left hand.