WILMINGTON — The rumors, apparently, are true. It long had been speculated that the Bruins would host the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL’s 2016 Winter Classic and, as first reported by WEEI.com, that will indeed be the case.
It will be the second time that the Bruins have hosted the Winter Classic, having defeated the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010 in overtime. This time they will take on their bitter rivals at Gillette Stadium in the NHL’s showcase game.
The game will mark the first time the Canadiens have played in the Winter Classic, though they played in the NHL’s Heritage Classic, another outdoor game, in 2011. They will be only the second Canadian team to play in the Winter Classic, after the Toronto Maple Leafs took on the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in 2014.
Word emerged about a month ago that the Bruins were the front-runners for the New Year’s Day game, reported then by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. At that point, it was unknown where the game would be played — whether it would return to Fenway or be shifted to Gillette, with its bigger capacity.
The Bruins will be the first team to host the Winter Classic for a second time. It previously has been held in Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Washington, D.C.
The news is expected to be officially announced at the NHL All-Star Game this weekend in Columbus, Ohio.
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While coach Claude Julien didn’t make it to Gillette Stadium for Sunday’s AFC Championship game, he was there in spirit.
“I didn’t have a rain jacket, so I couldn’t go,” he said. “My heart was there, but not my body.”
He wasn’t the only one spending Sunday (a Bruins off day) watching football. Milan Lucic, a fan of both the Seattle Seahawks and the Patriots, was also watching closely.
“Since ’09 when I had that high ankle sprain, I’ve kind of converted into a Patriots fan, so I’ve got to stick with my team now and keep cheering for the Pats,” Lucic said.
While Lucic was watching the NFC Championship game, though, he sent a few texts congratulating some cousins in Milwaukee — Packers fans, of course — when Green Bay intercepted Seattle’s Russell Wilson with 5:04 to go in the game.
“Pretty crazy to see them come back like that,” Lucic said. “Obviously it brings back memories of the Game 7 against Toronto that we had. So you kind of know the feeling that they’re feeling today and how excited they are to pull something like that off.
“Looking back, the run that we went on after having a comeback like that — because you’re so high and it seems like nothing can go wrong when you’re able to come back from something like that — I’m pretty sure the Seahawks are feeling that right now.”
Lucic, of course, was referring to Game 7 in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, when the Bruins went down, 4-1, to Toronto before starting their epic comeback at 10:42 of the third period. The Bruins eventually ended up in the Stanley Cup Final.
Lucic said, too, that the Bruins can look to the Patriots for inspiration, given where New England was before its Week 5 matchup with the Bengals.
“Just seeing the way that they came out against Cincinnati, they went out there and showed that, ‘We’re saving our season and we’re doing it right now,’ ” Lucic said. “I think we have to have that same type of approach, especially with two games here before the All-Star Game. If it takes feeding off something like that, we need to use whatever we can to build any type of momentum for ourselves.”
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Tuesday brings the Bruins to Dallas and a meeting with former Bruin Tyler Seguin, who is tied for the league lead in goals.
There has been some outrage among the fandom over the trade, which sent Seguin to Dallas and brought Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith (among others) to Boston. But, as David Krejci pointed out Monday, Seguin wouldn’t necessarily be in this position had he not been traded.
“Who knows how that would be if he would stay in Boston?” Krejci said. “We play a little different style of hockey. If he’s happy or not, I’m not sure. He must be happy on the one side that he’s up there in the scoring race. But on the other hand, at the end of the day, you want to accomplish something as a team . . . If they can’t put themselves in [playoff] position, I’m not sure he’s going to be that happy in the summer.”
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The Bruins flew to Dallas on Monday, with a back-to-back against the Stars on Tuesday and Colorado on Wednesday. But once those games are done, the Bruins won’t play again for eight days. Given how important points are — as they cling to the eighth spot in the East — Julien said it’s likely he could manage his team to go for as many as possible.
“I think right now the important thing is the point,” Julien said. “If it means having a shorter bench because of the break, I have no issues with that.”
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.