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Boston Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton, right, checks Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston,Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. (The Canadian Press)

Boston Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton, right, checks Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston,Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.

(The Canadian Press)

Canadiens and Bruins eager to renew rivalry Add to ...

South of the border, the NBC hype machine bills it as the Wednesday Night Rivalry, and this week's instalment features a dandy: Boston and Montreal.

They principal belligerents brushed aside the suggestion that the first-place showdown at the Bell Centre between the powerhouse Bruins and the surprising Canadiens, but let's face it, the first meeting of the season between the bitter historical rivals is always a measuring stick of sorts.

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And it's one the players are plainly looking forward to.

"If you can't get up for a game against Boston, then I think you're on the wrong team here. I think everyone's excited, we know what we're up against, (Boston) is a great hockey team," said Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges.

The Habs are bobbing along at 6-2, although the Bruins present the stiffest test of a season that has seen Montreal play only two opponents - Ottawa and New Jersey - who have a winning record. Boston sits atop the Eastern Conference with 13 points, having lost just once in regulation this season.

The Bruins have won their last four games against Montreal, which leads the all-time series 447-330 (they have also tied 103 times, and seven games have ended in a shootout or overtime loss for Montreal).

Unusually for a compressed season, both teams are coming off three days' rest - the Bruins have been in Montreal since Monday night.

"It's always fun to play here, it's a great atmosphere, we're playing against a team that's playing really well so it's going to be a good challenge," said Boston defenceman Adam McQuaid.

Okay, so maybe there isn't the usual surfeit of hate or bad blood going into this thing - at least not that the players are willing to share with the public.

But it shouldn't take too long for it to build - NBC Sports Network has likely chosen well in picking the Habs and Bruins.

After all, the Bruins and Rangers game that kicked off the Wednesday rivals feature two weeks ago was the highest-rated regular-season NHL game in the U.S. for 11 years.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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