NHL

Struggling Canadiens gear up to face rival Bruins

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins fired Claude Julien, the winningest coach in franchise history, last Tuesday.

The Montreal Canadiens are struggling, with five losses in their last six games and goals hard to come by, leaving coach Michel Therrien in what may well be a precarious situation as his second stay as the Montreal head man seems to be in peril.

While the rumors swirl, one has even suggested Julien returns to Montreal for his second tour with the Habs.

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Sunday night, hockey's greatest rivalry gets its latest renewal when the Canadiens visit TD Garden.

The Bruins have won two straight since assistant Bruce Cassidy took over as the interim coach. The Canadiens, meanwhile, lost to the resurgent St. Louis Blues, who have new life after firing their coach, in Montreal Saturday night.

The Canadiens have won nine straight games in the Boston area, eight at TD Garden and one at Gillette Stadium in last year's Winter Classic. The last Boston win over Montreal in Boston came back on Jan. 12, 2012 -- the night the Canadiens traded Mike Cammilleri during the game, which he actually started with the team.

This Montreal team has scored five goals in the five losses during its latest scoring slump, but could be bolstered if Brendan Gallagher returns Sunday night after missing just over a month with a broken hand. The feisty Gallagher, who accompanied the team to Boston, has 18 points in 19 career games against the Bruins.

Captain Max Pacioretty, who missed Saturday's early skate because of illness, played and scored a goal, a game after notching his 200th. But his team hasn't won two straight since early January.

"We want to go into every game and give ourselves a chance to win," he said after Saturday's game. "Obviously it hasn't been perfect as of late and we haven't been able to put together a streak. It's a big division game tomorrow and that's all we can worry about now. The past is in the past and, yeah, we've been frustrated but we've got a chance tomorrow to win an important game."

Montreal's struggles have put its hold on the top spot in the Atlantic Division in peril. The Canadiens have a six-point lead on Ottawa but the Senators have four games in hand.

"We know we're a playoff team and I think the best way to look at it is we want to be getting better every night and going into the playoffs strong," said Nathan Beaulieu. "We can't worry about what other teams are doing; we've got to control what we can in this room. We're just too inconsistent right now."

The Bruins moved back into the third spot in the division with Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Asked after Saturday's game if two wins represents a turnaround, Boston Ryan Spooner said, "Too early maybe. We've kind of been here.

"I think the problem this season's been we've played good for maybe three or four games, then maybe not as good for a couple games. So I think with our team now, we've got (25) games left, it's going to be about being more of a consistent team, and I think if we can do that, we should be fine."

This is the Bruins' final game before their five-day break, which really couldn't have come at a worse time with a new coach looking to have as much practice time as possible. The team must stay away from the rink for the five days.

After Anton Khudobin recorded his second win of the season and the second by any Boston goalie beside Tuukka Rask, Rask is expected to take his 6-15-3 record, 2.61 goals against average and .912 save percentage against Montreal into the game.

David Pastrnak scored the late winner for the Bruins Saturday, his fifth goal in three games.

Carey Price should start for the Habs, coming in 24-8-4 with a 2.33 average and a .924 save percentage against the Bruins.

The Canadiens have won two of the three games between the teams this season, one in Boston. The Bruins won in overtime at Montreal Dec. 12.