CANADIENS (15-8-2) at DEVILS (8-14-2)
TV -- RDS (HD), MSG-PLUS (HD)
Last 10 -- Montreal 6-3-1; New Jersey 4-5-1
Season series -- This is the second of four meetings between the clubs this season. The Devils won 3-0 at Montreal on Oct. 21.
Big story -- If Devils coach John MacLean lets it happen, this will be the first time brothers Brian and Stephen Gionta will face each other in an organized hockey game. Four years separate Brian, the Canadiens' captain and former Devil, and his younger brother, a recent call-up for New Jersey. Stephen told Tom Gulitti of The Record that other than their times squaring off against each other in past Devils' training camps they have never played opposite each other in a game. MacLean said he will decide Thursday morning if Stephen is going to play or be a healthy scratch.
Canadiens -- Montreal gave away a two-goal third-period lead to last season's 30th-place team in the NHL on Wednesday night and lost 4-3 at home. So, no, that's not exactly the best way for the Habs to head into the second half of a back-to-back. Edmonton's Dustin Penner took advantage of Mike Cammalleri's turnover in the neutral zone to score on a breakaway 2:28 into overtime at Bell Centre. If the Canadiens' current trend continues, they're a good bet to win in Newark. They've alternated wins and losses over the last eight games, and they haven't lost two straight in a month.
Devils -- Captain Jamie Langenbrunner said Wednesday that he's ready to return to the lineup after missing eight games with a neck injury. MacLean said following Wednesday's workout in Newark that he would make his decision Thursday morning as to whether Langenbrunner will indeed return. Langenbrunner suffered a herniated disc and a pinched nerve in his neck when he slid head first into the boards on Nov. 10 against Buffalo. Rookie defenseman Matthew Corrente could also be back in the lineup after missing two games since hurting his shoulder against Calgary last week. Jason Arnott was laid up with food poisoning earlier in the week, but he should be fine.
Who's hot -- The Devils have scored only two goals in their last 190 minutes, but goalie Johan Hedberg has allowed only four goals over that span. That includes a 30-save performance in a shutout of Washington last Monday and a 40-save effort in New Jersey's last game, a 2-1 shootout victory against Philadelphia on Saturday.
Injury report -- Langenbrunner, Corrente and Arnott are on the mend, but the Devils are still without goalie Martin Brodeur, who continues to be bothered by a bruised elbow. … Montreal is still missing Andrei Markov, who is pretty much done for the season with a knee injury.
Stat pack -- Defenseman Anton Volchenkov is still looking for his first point as a Devil. He's played in 12 games since signing his big contract this summer. Volchenkov had 94 points in 428 games over seven seasons in Ottawa. Hedberg has raised his save percentage to .910 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.66 with his recent four-game run (113 saves on 117 shots against). … Canadiens rookie Lars Eller might be coming around. He scored his first goal Nov. 24 against L.A. and picked up his second assist of the season Wednesday against the Oilers. He had gone 12 straight games without a point prior to his goal against the Kings. Roman Hamrlik picked up his 600th career point with a goal Wednesday.
Puck drop -- "I hope to be playing at a better level," Langenbrunner said Wednesday. "If our team is going to get out of the situation that we dug ourselves in, we're going to have to keep on elevating our game not only individually, but as a team. I think I witnessed a little bit of that in watching the last few games. The team has played better as a team and some individuals on different nights have elevated their games. That's got to be a continuing process and the whole group has to do that."