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CANADIENS (27-18-5) at RED WINGS (22-18-10)
TV: RDS, TSN, FS-D
Last 10: Montreal 4-4-2; Detroit 4-5-1
Season series: This is the first game between the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings as members of the Atlantic Division, and the first for the Canadiens at Joe Louis Arena since Dec. 10, 2010. They play once a month over the first four of 2014.
"I haven't played these guys throughout my career, and we'll see each other a lot more now," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said Thursday, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It's a team that you want to play against. For our fans, it's great. For their fans, it's great. We're looking forward to this."
Big story: Montreal and Detroit have been treading water in the Atlantic, grouped among four teams within six points for third place. The Canadiens are 9-9-2 and the Red Wings are 7-10-3 in their past 20 games, while the Toronto Maple Leafs (11-7-2) and Ottawa Senators (11-5-4) have surged.
Canadiens: After giving up five goals in 35 minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, Montreal shuffled its defense pairings at practice Thursday in Detroit.
"I think it's good to be familiar with all D pairings. It's a long season and you never know what can happen," Subban told the Canadiens website. "We also know that the way the pairings are now, they may not finish the game that way. As of right now, we're just going with the flow and making sure we're prepared to play and trying to get as familiar as we can with one another."
Alexei Emelin will return from being a healthy scratch to play with Andrei Markov, and Josh Gorges was with Nathan Beaulieu. Francis Bouillon and Raphael Diaz would be scratched. The Canadiens have given up 18 goals in the past four games.
"We're trying to find solutions because we're all aware we need to be better defensively," coach Michel Therrien said. "We worked on it again this morning, especially on our transition game heading back into our own end. It's our job to work on things that aren't going well. We're still trying to find the right combinations to help make our defensemen as effective as possible. We have a lot of options."
Goalie Carey Price, pulled in the second period Wednesday, will start.
Red Wings: Detroit will have forward Daniel Alfredsson back after missing six games with back spasms. He has practiced the past three days.
"It's been really good three days of skating and no issues so I'm ready to go," Alfredsson told MLive.com. "It's always frustrating to be out and now be able to skate like I have and have no issues it feels great actually."
"To be honest, with these kids here, we're a quicker team," coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. "We're quicker right now than we've been; we're competing harder than earlier in the year. We have to compete at a different level just because we don't have the skill. They've tried to do it right every day, which is a positive."
Jonas Gustavsson will make his second straight start in goal after returning from a three-week, groin-injury absence Wednesday.
Who's hot: Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty has nine points in January. … The Red Wings line of Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist combined for seven points (one goal, six assists) in a 5-4 shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Gustavsson has won four in a row.
Injury report: Canadiens forwards Alex Galchenyuk (hand) and Ryan White (upper body), and defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder surgery) are out. ... Franzen said his condition is improving; he and Datsyuk may return next week. Red Wings forwards Joakim Andersson (lower body), Cory Emmerton (hand) and Stephen Weiss (groin), and goalie Jimmy Howard (knee) are out.
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