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Milan Lucic is not known to mince words, and the Boston forward has fired his latest salvo at a longtime Bruins rival: the Montreal Canadiens.Canadiens bring an end to Bruins¡¯ 12-game win streak Montreal¡¯s Alexei Emelin hit Lucic with a low hip check less than two minutes into Monday night¡¯s game ¡ª a 2-1 win for the Canadiens. Lucic appeared to have caught Emelin with his stick later in the game, Tomas Plekanec XXL Jersey but denies spearing the Montreal defenceman.¡°I was skating by him, and that¡¯s all,¡± Lucic told reporters. ¡°People are trying to say I speared him. I did not spear him, so that¡¯s it.¡±Emelin¡¯s hit on Lucic and Chara¡¯s response appeared to set the tone for the game ¡ª a chippy affair that saw each team take 17 minutes in penalties. The Canadiens won despite losing two forwards, Dale Weise and Travis Moen, early in the first period. 

Bruins defenceman Kevan Miller sent Weise sprawling into the boards 4:50 into the game then fought with Moen, who challenged him after the hit.¡°I felt bad about it. I just kind of bumped into (Weise),¡± Miller said. ¡°I stood there just trying to make sure he was OK for a second and Moen asked if I wanted to (fight).It might still be snowing in parts of Canada when it happens, but in three weeks, the first undeniable sign of spring will arrive. The NHL playoffs will begin. There is a troubling question for Canadian NHL fans this year, though, beyond that bit about the lingering snow: How many Carey Price Red Jersey Canadian teams will actually be playing in the post-season? At this point, with slumps and injuries, it does not look promising in many of the seven Canadian markets. National Post reporter Sean Fitz-Gerald takes a quick cross-country tour, as time winds down on the NHL schedule: (Playoff probabilities calculated by SportsClubStats.com, taken before the Sunday evening games.) 

Cause: It has not been a season without wrinkles in Montreal, where veteran faces such as Daniel Bri¨¨re (cap hit: US$4-million) and Rene Bourque (US$3.3-million) have watched at least one game from the sidelines as a healthy scratch, and where goaltender Carey Price returned from the Olympics with a gold medal ¡ª and a mystery injury. And yet, as the season winds down, the Canadiens are positioned as Canada¡¯s best hope to appear in at least one playoff series.Effect: Perhaps bolstered by the team¡¯s standing, general manager Marc Bergevin made a splash at the deadline by renting Thomas Vanek (an impending unrestricted free agent) for a push down the stretch. Vanek has five points in eight games with Montreal ¡ª including a hat trick in a 6-3 win over Colorado last week. Cause: Injuries have dogged the Leafs at key positions for most of the year, first at centre, with Tyler Bozak and David Bolland lost for extended stretches, and lately in goal, where Jonathan Bernier has been battling a groin injury for more than a week. The biggest Kris Versteeg Red Jersey issue is also a familiar one: Heading into play on Sunday, no team had surrendered more shots per game (36.2) than Toronto.Effect: The Leafs had lost four straight ¡ª and all in regulation ¡ª heading into Sunday¡¯s road game in New Jersey.

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