Game Day: Canadiens @ Devils
The Montreal Canadiens will be looking to get back in the win-column in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon as they visit the Prudential Center to face-off with the Devils. The Canadiens have lost three of their last four in a shootout, including Thursday nights 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Neither team has been hugely successful heading into Saturday's game, with both clubs amassing only 29 points on the season so far. The Devils do hold a slight advantage though, with two games in hand and going 5-5-0 in their last ten games compared to Montreal, who have gone 3-3-4. The Devils will be looking to win a third straight game against an opponent from the Northeast Division.
If the Canadiens hope to bounce back, they'll need the help of their power play, which has been 1-for-36 in the Habs last nine games, not to mention going 0-for-4 against the Canucks on Thursday. That won't be easy though, as the Devils have killed a league-leading 94.1% of their penalties. Special teams will certainly be a key factor in Saturday's game, and the team who performs the best might just emerge with the two points.
Despite the Canadiens power play woes, the team has taken steps to improve it by shipping blue-liner Jaroslav Spacek to Carolina in return for power play quarterback Tomas Kaberle, a trade which has Habs fans divided. On one hand, Kaberle has shown in the past that he has the ability to play a top-4 role and control a successful power play. He put up 38 points in 58 games with the Maple Leafs last season, but since then has only tallied 19 points in 53 games while splitting time with the Bruins and Hurricanes. Canadiens management and fans had hoped Andrei Markov would be back to fill this role by now, but with GM Pierre Gauthier confirming he will be out until at least the All-Star Break, a change had to be made. At the very least, Kaberle adds another Stanley Cup winner to a team already built to win in the playoffs.
Another key to success for the bleu-blanc-et-rouge will not only be to jump to an early lead, but to maintain it. The Canadiens have had trouble doing so recently, and it will be of utmost importance heading into the game on Saturday afternoon. The Habs went up by three against the Canucks on Thursday, only to concede three goals in the final 32 minutes of the game, allowing the Canucks the chance to wrap it up in a shootout. Meanwhile in New Jersey, the Devils fought back from a 3-0 deficit of their own to get the extra point in a shootout against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
Injuries continue to plague the Canadiens. This time it's captain Brian Gionta who will miss the game against his former team after suffering a lower-body injury. Meanwhile the Canadiens will still be missing Scott Gomez, Andrei Markov and Ryan White. On the plus side, defenseman Chris Campoli has been given the green-light to play, and could suit up for this game. The Devils will be missing Cam Janssen, Andy Greene and Travis Zajac. Anton Volchenkov is also day-to-day with a hand injury.
As always when these two teams meet, it will be a fierce battle between the pipes. Martin Brodeur is expected to start for the Devils as he faces his home town team, who he has had great success against up to this point. Brodeur has gone 40-17-5 in his career against the Canadiens, and has allowed just 1.76 goals against on average. Carey Price is expected to suit up for the Habs, and the team will rely heavily on the All-Star netminder, as always, to help secure a victory and break out of their current slump.
While games between the Canadiens and Devils have often been described as “boring hockey,” both teams have a lot riding on this game. Both teams are sitting just one point out of a playoff spot, and will be looking to come away with a win to avoid falling any further down the standings. Three teams in the East have 29 points when you include Washington, and with Winnipeg sitting at 28, every loss can make the hole that much harder to get out of.
The puck drops at the Prudential Center at 1:00 PM ET on Saturday, and you can catch the game on CBC, RDS and NHLN-US.