Season Series: First of four meetings this season. The Devils won three of the matchups on the 2009-10 schedule, including the only one started by Carey Price, now the undisputed No. 1 goalie in Montreal. Zach Parise led New Jersey in the series with 2 goals and 4 points, while Mike Cammalleri and ex-Devil Scott Gomez each had a goal and 2 assists for the Canadiens.
Big Story: Price's strong start (3-1-1, 2.57 goals-against average, .914 save percentage) has lifted some of the pressure off a young man thrust square into the Montreal spotlight after playoff hero Jaroslav Halak was traded over the summer. Meanwhile, the Devils may be gripping their sticks a little tighter entering this game -- they're off to the second-worst start in team history.
Devils: The general rule of thumb for the past decade-plus has been if you're trying to find New Jersey, somewhere near the top of the Atlantic Division standings would be a good place to start looking. It's only six games into the season, but seeing the Devils down in the basement with just a solitary win to their credit is more than a little startling. They were shelled for four second-period goals in their most recent loss, 4-1 to the Bruins on Saturday and need someone to step forward and take charge before things spiral out of control.
"It's easy to say we had great leadership before, because we won," forward Jason Arnott, a former captain in Nashville, told the Newark Star-Ledger. "If we were winning right now, everybody would think we have great leadership. We have a lot of talent in here and a lot of guys who are great leaders. It's just a matter of bringing it out."
Canadiens: Like its opponent, Montreal has had four days off since its last game. The Canadiens actually come off one-goal wins on back-to-back nights against Northeast Division competition -- they beat the Sabres 2-1 on Friday and edged the Senators 4-3 on Saturday. Andrei Kostitsyn scored the tying goal against Ottawa and set up the game-winner with 3:59 left in the third period by Tomas Plekanec.
"Andrei is an important element of our team when he uses his strength, when he goes to the net, and his shot can be an intimidating force," coach Jacques Martin said. "He's been a big factor in our success the last couple of games."
Who's Hot: Plekanec (2-3-5) has two multi-point efforts in his last three games and leads the Canadiens in scoring.
Injury Report: New Jersey hopes to have defenseman Anton Volchenkov (broken nose/stiff neck) back soon, but he's doubtful for Thursday. Forward Brian Rolston (sports hernia) and defensemen Mark Fraser (hand) Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Anssi Salmela (knee) are all out long term. … Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov, out since tearing a knee ligament in the playoffs back in May, is practicing but not quite ready yet to make his season debut.
Stat Pack: The Devils have fared well at the Bell Centre in recent seasons, going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games there. They're 22-23-4 all-time playing in Montreal.
Puck Drop: Gomez and another ex-Devil, Brian Gionta, the new captain of the Canadiens, are still trying to rediscover the chemistry they've shared dating back to their days in New Jersey. Gionta scored his first of the season Saturday against the Senators, but he and Gomez have combined for just 2 goals and 4 points over the first five games.
"We're getting some great looks, and we're continuously coming close," Gomez said. "We hit a post here, a post there and the puck doesn't find its way in, but a few lucky bounces and suddenly it's a different story. With the amount of skill in the League today, we know that it's important to make the most of those plays, but it's only when you're not getting those looks, not getting those chances that you have to start to worry."