CANADIENS (14-7-1) at THRASHERS (10-9-3)
TV -- RDS (HD), SPSO (HD)
Last 10 -- Montreal 7-3-0; Atlanta 4-5-1
Season series -- This is the first of four meetings between the two clubs. The Thrashers and the Canadiens split last season's series, which was played out by the end of December. Two of the games were won in overtime, one in a shootout and the fourth by just one goal in regulation.
Big story -- Atlanta will be looking for its fourth-straight win on Friday for the first time this season. In their last three victories the Thrashers have beaten two of the League's best, a 5-1 win over the Red Wings on Wednesday and a 5-0 shutout over the Capitals last Friday. They will be facing a hot Montreal squad that stands third in the Eastern Conference, and while Carey Price has backstopped the Habs to 13 wins it will be backup Alex Auld starting his second game of the season on Friday.
"Atlanta's hot right now -- they’ve got a lot of guys going. We've risen to the challenge of every really good team that we've played so far this year, and we'll do the same thing against the Thrashers," Auld said. "I take a lot of confidence from the fact that I prepare the same way everyday. I haven't played in a while so the best thing to do in a situation like this is to keep my game as simple as possible."
Canadiens -- After a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Flyers on Monday, the Canadiens bounced back with a 4-1 win over the Kings on Wednesday. Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and an assist while Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller also found the back of the net. It was Eller's first goal for Montreal, and he had a look of pure excitement on his face after scoring it.
"Hopefully it doesn't take me 20 games to score another one," said Eller, who was acquired from St. Louis this summer for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. "When the crowd supports you like that, you don't get a much better feeling than that. I've never had 22,000 people yelling when I've scored before."
Price finished with 24 saves and just missed picking up his fifth shutout of the season.
"We've rebounded with good performances all year long," coach Jacques Martin said. "Tonight we had four lines working hard and our defense and goalie who were excellent."
Thrashers -- It seems that all Atlanta needed was a captain for things to get rolling. The Thrashers have been 3-0 since Andrew Ladd has donned the "C." Ladd led his team in style with a shorthanded goal and assist in their 5-1 victory over Detroit. Bryan Little also had a goal and an assist, while Chris Thorburn, Anthony Stewart and Dustin Byfuglien rounded out the count.
Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves and has allowed less than two goals in each of his last five starts.
"I think it should tell everyone here that we can play with anybody, first and foremost," Ladd said. "We're doing a lot of little things we've been talking about. When it works, it becomes contagious and everyone wants to do it. Everyone buys in and I thought that's what we had tonight."
Who's hot -- Besides Price, who leads the League with his 13 wins, is fifth in goals-against average, fourth in save percentage and tied for first in shutouts, Benoit Pouliot was the only Hab to have points in consecutive games with three, while Cammalleri is starting to regain his scoring touch with 3 goals in his last five games.
Pavelec also tops the NHL's best goaltenders, ranking third in save percentage and in GAA. Of course it helps when one of his defensemen is also on a roll, as Byfuglien has a goal in three straight. Ladd has 5 points in the last three games.
Injury report -- Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov is out with a right knee injury. … For the Thrashers, forward Freddy Modin (upper body) is questionable for Friday.
Stat pack -- The Thrashers have an all-time record of 7-10-5 at home against the Canadiens.
Puck drop -- For anyone who watched Montreal's playoff run, this quote from the Canadiens coach should start worrying some of the teams out there.
"There's no doubt we played a strong game defensively, I thought our back pressure was good tonight, we came back hard in our defensive zone," Martin said. "It reminded me a little bit of our team in the playoffs (last season) with our commitment to play away from the puck. Usually when you do that you create some good scoring opportunities and get good production."