Well, you didn’t think the Montreal Canadiens would wallow in the NHL gutter for too long, did you?

After a season marred by injuries, questionable personnel decisions, Quebec politics and, ultimately, a playoff-free spring, the Canadiens performed a deep cleansing of themselves. General manager Pierre Gauthier, who last year had taken on the bloated contract of defenseman Tomas Kaberle (most recently a healthy scratch) and yanked forward Michael Cammalleri out of a game against the Bruins at the Garden for shipment to Calgary in a trade with the Flames, was axed and Marc Bergevin was hired.

Coach Randy Cunneyworth, who took over for Jacques Martin midway though the season and instantly was thrust into controversy because he doesn’t speak French, was replaced by Michel Therrien, who is in his second term behind the Montreal bench.

Bergevin then added some grit to the roster with the addition of winger Brandon Prust. And the Canadiens have immediately cashed in on their lousy season with the infusion of speedy forward Alex Galchenyuk, the No. 3 overall pick in last June’s NHL draft.

Add all that to the return of veterans Brian Gionta up front and Andrei Markov on defense, and you have what we have tonight, a game for first place in the Northeast Division between the Bruins and Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

“It’s always been there,” B’s defenseman Johnny Boychuk said of the intensity between the teams. “You guys may have thought it died down, but it’s always there. It’s always fun to play against them and now that we’re battling for first place, it makes it all the more interesting.”

While the Canadiens — a point behind the B’s in the standings — dropped far out of the playoff structure last year, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that they’ve burst back on the scene. Montreal is, after all, just two years removed from taking the eventual Stanley Cup champion Bruins to overtime of Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.

“They had a lot of key injuries and they were never able to get their second wind,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of last year’s Canadiens. “And once you get derailed it’s hard to get back on track. They certainly weren’t as bad as the standings showed. Now they’re healthy for the moment, they have a new GM, a new coach and everything else breathing some new life in there, they seem to have caught fire. It’s going to be a good game for us.”