montreal_canadiens_logoBOSTON — The Providence Bruins and Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League are not scheduled to meet this season.

But it will feel like those two AHL contenders (the P-Bruins lead the Atlantic Division, while the Bulldogs are in a tight North Division race) are battling one another when the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens meet at TD Banknorth Garden tonight.

That’s because both teams have endured so much injury and illness that a number of players expected to spend the full year with their team’s respective farm clubs have been forced into one of the oldest, grudge-filled rivalries in the NHL.

Instead of skating in smaller barns and riding buses, the likes of Martin St. Pierre, Martins Karsums and Byron Bitz will be donning the spoked ‘B.’ And on the other side, the Habs will dress players such as Matt D’Agostini, Max Pacioretty and Kyle Chipchura.

This game will be more than a battle of the top two teams in the Northeast Division, more than another chapter in the ongoing feud between the two franchises, and more than a match-up of the two coaches selected to work the Eastern Conference bench at the 2009 All-Star Game.

This showdown will be a battle of organizational depth, and a chance for both clubs to show how much of that depth can help them overcome adversity.

Season series: The Bruins are 2-0-1 vs. Montreal this season after not winning a game in eight regular-season tries last winter. The Bruins won the only game played at the Garden between the two squads. The teams meet two more times after this match-up.

What they’re writing: The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey reports on the state-of-the-franchise address by Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey, who expressed some contentment about his team’s recent solid play. Hickey also delves into the rumors of Vincent Lecavalier possibly getting traded to the Habs.

Montreal Player to Watch: The last time the Bruins and Canadiens met, Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek was still out with an injury he suffered in a fight with Boston’s Milan Lucic in the previous Bruins-Habs contest. Komisarek is back healthy now, but Lucic, out the last two games with an undisclosed injury, will probably be unavailable again.  So it’ll be interesting to see how Komisarek plays this one knowing that he won’t have to look over his shoulder for his perennial nemesis. Komisarek will get a chance to flaunt his All-Star ways without the distraction of physical confrontation. Since returning to the line-up Dec. 18, Komisarek has put up three asssits and a plus-2 rating.