There is the official version, and then there is the unvarnished truth.
If most of the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens were saying nice, soothing things for the benefit of the cameras ahead of their meeting Tuesday night, rookie winger Brad Marchand dropped the political correctness like the Bruins shed their gloves in an 8-6 mauling of the Habs on Feb. 9.
No point in pretending, then, that these teams harbour anything but bile for one another.
"They like to get in and shoot their mouths of and then when you hit them they'll dive down and fall easy," Marchand said of the Canadiens, who lead the season series between the teams 3-1.
Well okay, then.
And if the Habs or their fans are upset about the treatment reserved for non-combatants Jaroslav Spacek and Tom Pyatt, who found themselves tangling with beefier Boston opponents in the final stages of that game.
"They stir the pot, and they got what they deserved . . . whatever anyone's mad about, they can suck it up, it's not our fault," said Marchand, who also loosed a few verbal barbs at his old World Junior teammate P.K. Subban, saying "he just likes to take runs at guys" and if he has a chance to avenge a spectacular open-ice hit that Subban laid on him last December, he will.
Though Marchand's willingness to call it as it is may be good pre-game fodder, it's not like the Canadiens' impressions of him - or his teammates - will be affected.
Rivalries and emotion aside, fact is the Habs need the points and so do the Bruins.
Boston coach Claude Julien suggested "this is a totally different game . . . I think you're going to see two very disciplined teams tonight."
When prodded, he chuckled and said "I think you guys are trying to light some fires here."
On the Montreal side of the ledger, winger Michael Cammalleri and defenceman Brent Sopel were on the ice for the pre-game skate - both missed practice Monday, but wouldn't sit out an occasion like this barring catastrophic injury.
Habs forward Max Pacioretty said he doesn't expect to have much of a pre-game nap, and told reporters at the Canadiens' practice facility that "we know how much they hate us, they know how much we hate them."
Whether or not there's rampant goonery, this match-up should feature playoff-level intensity.
The Bruins have won seven of eight and are unbeaten in regulation in three weeks, and the Canadiens have won four consecutive games.
Boston currently holds a five-point lead in the standings on Montreal, but both have designs on the division title - the Bruins will tie Philadelphia for top spot in the conference if they win tonight and the Flyers stumble against Edmonton As power forward Milan Lucic, who is as unfailingly pleasant and friendly off the ice as he is fierce on it, put it: "for us, this has never been an easy place to win in."
"I think it's important that we pay with an edge . . . but we have to be smart," he said.
The Bruins also come to town with well-known Habs-killers Tomas Kaberle, who had 49 points in 63 games against Montreal while a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and former Atlanta Thrashers forward Rich Peverley, who has six goals and 11 points in 9 games against the Habs.
Carey Price, the NHL's co-leader in wins with 31, will start in goal for the Canadiens.
The Bruins didn't confirm their choice of starter, although the odds are it will be Vezina trophy favourite Tim Thomas - nominal back-up Tuukka Rask left practice early after being stung by a high shot, flinging his stick into the seats before storming off the ice.
There was no word on his status.Report Typo/Error