Offensive Trouble

The Boston Bruins have had trouble scoring goals lately, leaving them on the short end of some lopsided scores.

It's similar to their season series with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens will try to make it seven wins in as many tries this season against the Bruins on Thursday, while trying to pad their slim lead atop the Northeast Division.

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Montreal (40-24-10) has outscored Boston 32-12 in six meetings this season, putting up five or more goals four times. The Canadiens scored their season high in their most recent win over the Bruins, 8-2 on Jan. 22 - their ninth straight victory in the series.

"I think when I look back at the games, we've given them more goals than they've earned," Boston coach Claude Julien told the team's official Web site. "I think that's probably the thing that's frustrating the most, the type of mistakes we've made against them."

The Canadiens are the NHL's best team on the power play (24.4 percent), but they've been even better against the Bruins, scoring 10 goals in 28 chances (35.7 percent).

The Bruins (37-27-9) are 2-4-3 in their last nine games and though they're seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, there are three current non-playoff teams within five points of them in the standings.

They've lost two games by at least six goals this month, and have scored one goal or fewer five times, including Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss at Washington.

"It's what you expect, really, to have these tight games," goaltender Alex Auld said. "Every point's so valuable, teams don't want to give up too many turnovers and giveaways."

Auld's strong play has created a controversy in net for Boston. He has a 1.16 goals-against average in his last five starts, but he's just 1-1-3 as the Bruins have scored four goals combined in those games.

Tim Thomas, who has made 47 starts this season, has a 5.07 GAA in his last four starts.

The Bruins figure to be a better team on both ends when captain Zdeno Chara returns to the lineup. The 6-foot-9 defenseman has missed the team's last five games with an upper torso injury, but may return against Montreal. He has seven goals and four assists in his last 11 games, and is third on the team with 48 points.

While the Bruins are fighting to make the playoffs, the Canadiens are in a fight for the Northeast Division. They have a three-point lead over second-place Ottawa, and also are battling New Jersey and Pittsburgh for the top spot in the East.

Montreal is 7-3-1 in its last 11 games, but missed out on a potentially vital point on Tuesday with a 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis, one of the league's worst teams.

"We didn't play bad but it just wasn't good enough to win," said Christopher Higgins, who scored his first goal in 10 games.

Higgins has two goals and three assists against Boston this season, and every Canadiens player but Francis Bouillon has at least a point against the Bruins. Center Tomas Plekanec (three goals, six assists) and defenseman Mark Streit (nine assists) lead the way.

Alexei Kovalev, who leads Montreal with 31 goals and 43 assists, has five goals in this season series.

Goalie Jaroslav Halak has started the last two games for the Canadiens, but regular starter Carey Price will be back in net in Boston. The rookie is 3-0-0 with a 2.34 GAA against the Bruins in 2007-08.

The teams conclude their season series Saturday in Montreal.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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