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Bruins face familiar foe in Canadiens

Montreal at Boston, Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Game One, 7:00 p.m. EDT

BOSTON (AP) -- Tim Thomas played in the NCAA Frozen Four, the

world hockey championships and the finals of European pro


He thought he was ready.

Now he knows he wasn't.

"I thought, 'It can't be that much different.' I was wrong," the

Boston Bruins goalie said this week as he recalled his NHL

playoff debut against the Montreal Canadiens last year. "It was

even more than what people were trying to tell me. It's funner,

more emotional, more of an adrenaline rush than I could ever


The Bruins and Canadiens are at it again, hooking up for a

first-round playoff series that begins Thursday night in Boston.

It will be the 32nd postseason meeting -- the most of any NHL

matchup -- between the Original Six and Northeast Division foes,

including last year's series that Montreal won in seven games.

This year the seeds are swapped: Boston has the best record in

the Eastern Conference and the Canadiens barely squeaked into

the playoffs. But Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn't expect his

team's 116 regular-season points or home ice advantage to

intimidate the 23-time Stanley Cup champions.

"What counts is what happens on the ice," he said at the Bruins'

practice facility this week. "Living on a reputation doesn't do

anything for you."

That's good news for Boston, which hasn't won it all since Bobby

Orr skated with the Cup in 1972 or even gotten out of the first

round since '99, though they came closer than expected last year

when they pushed the Canadiens to a seventh game. The tight

series was even more surprising considering that Montreal had

beaten Boston in 13 consecutive games and 25 of 29 before the

Bruins took Game 3.

"Finally getting that big win, I think it just got everyone's

confidence going as a team and finally knowing that we could

beat them," said center Glen Metropolit, who played for the

Bruins last season and is now with Montreal. "I think we knew we

put a good fight up, you know what I mean. I think a lot of

people counted us out, and to make it Game 7, it was something


"I don't want to say we were satisfied to make it to Game 7 --

it would have been nice to win that -- but it's one of those

feelings I got: we gave it all we had and for what we had in the

dressing room at the time, with guys being injured and

everything like that, it was kind of like, 'OK, we proved (it)

to everyone.'"

Julien, who coached the Canadiens from 2002 until midway through

the '05-06 season before he was fired by current Canadiens coach

Bob Gainey, said after the Bruins got over the initial sting of

the loss, "we were looking forward to getting back on the ice."

Once they did, they took off. Boston started this season 29-5-4

to run away with the Northeast, finishing 23 points ahead of

second-place Montreal.

"It was a bit of a carry-over," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said.

"Ultimately it put a good feeling into the room and the

organization. We felt we were taking steps in the right


A lot has changed for Montreal, too.

The Canadiens lost 12 of 15 games in late January and early

February, and though they seemed to have snap out of it by

winning six of eight Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau on March 9 and

took over on the bench. Montreal seesawed to a 6-6-4 record

under Gainey, losing their last four games to finish tied for

the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but holding the

tiebreaker over the Florida Panthers.

"All the players feel responsible for Carbonneau losing his job

so probably (there's) shock, and the fear that we can be next,"

forward Tom Kostopoulos said.

The Canadiens were also a No. 8 seed in the playoffs in 2004,

under Julien, when they bounced the top-seeded Bruins from the

playoffs in seven games.

Michael Ryder, now with Boston, played for the other side in

that one.

"It's going to be a little different, being on the other side,

playing against a few friends," he said. "But come playoff time,

I guess you don't have too many friends."


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