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BLUE JACKETS (2-3-0) at CANADIENS (4-2-0)
TV: RDS; FS-O; TSN-HABS
Season series: This is the first meeting between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens since a 3-2 Columbus shootout victory at Bell Centre on Dec. 6, 2011. The Canadiens will likely have 10 players in their lineup who also dressed for that game, while the Blue Jackets are expected to have eight. It’s been a while.
Big story: The Blue Jackets are coming off back-to-back losses against two elite teams, the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, but they were in both games until the end. Boston won 3-1, but the two-goal margin came on an empty-net goal with 33 seconds remaining, while Detroit won 2-1 at home Tuesday night. The Canadiens are coming off a 3-1-0 road trip through Western Canada and had the day off Wednesday.
Blue Jackets: In their past two games against the Bruins and Red Wings, the Blue Jackets had 64 shots on goal and allowed 68 while getting outscored 4-2, if you don’t count the empty-netter against Boston. That’s not a bad performance in two very difficult games, which has coach Todd Richards encouraged.
"I like the way we played on Tuesday," Richards told the Columbus Dispatch after an optional skate at Bell Centre on Wednesday. "So unless something changes between now and then, I'll probably go back to the same lineup.
"We created chances. We played smart hockey. We've done that for two games now and we haven't been rewarded. We need to get rewarded for it."
The problem in both those games was that not enough of the chances the Blue Jackets generated resulted in goals, and neither of Columbus’ two goals in its past two games came at even strength. On the season thus far, Columbus has scored seven even-strength goals in five games, with four coming in one game against the Buffalo Sabres. That amounts to three even-strength goals in the Blue Jackets’ four other games.
On the bright side, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky appears to have picked up where he left off from last season’s Vezina Trophy-winning performance with a .929 save percentage through five starts, but he’ll need some help from his teammates up front to improve on his two-win total thus far.
Canadiens: Montreal is coming off consecutive wins against the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets after opening its Western Canadian road swing with a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames. The common element in the last two wins was the stellar play of goaltender Carey Price, who stopped 75 of 76 shots against the Canucks and Jets, and arguably stole both games for the Canadiens.
But Price didn’t see it the same way, at least not after the 3-0 win Tuesday in Winnipeg.
"I thought we did an excellent job of not allowing ourselves to get outworked and not putting anything less than 100 percent out," Price said after the game. "Any [shots] I didn't see, we blocked. Any rebounds I let out, we cleared."
Another aspect of Montreal’s game that is rolling right now are the special teams, with the power play clicking at a 26.9 percent rate and the penalty kill – a major weakness last season – at 84 percent. On top of that, the Canadiens are scoring two goals at 5-on-5 for every goal they give up.
Who’s hot: The hottest Blue Jacket is undoubtedly Bobrovsky, who has allowed more than two goals just once in five starts, and that came in the season opener. Offensively, Marian Gaborik leads the team with six points in five games. ... Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban is on a five-game point streak, with two goals and six assists in that span.
Injury report: The Blue Jackets are still without Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery), while Matt Calvert will be out six weeks with an abdominal injury. Forward Nick Foligno is not with the team due to a personal matter and is unlikely to play against Montreal. ... The Canadiens will likely be missing forward Max Pacioretty, who was helped off the ice Tuesday with a lower-body injury. They are also missing forward George Parros (concussion) and defensemen Alexei Emelin (knee), Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and Douglas Murray (upper body).