Looking to end an historic season-opening slump, the Canadiens will be without leading scorer Max Pacioretty when they host the high-octane Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.
Montreal's leading scorer Max Pacioretty will miss Wednesday night's game against the Flyers with a reported wrist injury. (Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI)
"Max was playing really well and had quite a traumatic injury last year," Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri said. "It's unfortunate to see him get hurt."
Pacioretty's questionable status potentially puts in jeopardy his first game against the Boston Bruins since he suffered that traumatic injury last March as the Canadiens have a home-and-home series with their heated rivals following the game against Philadelphia.
Though it may appear being dramatic this early would be ridiculous, it is very possible the Canadiens season will play itself out in this gruesome stretch of three games. Although the Bruins are not playing their best hockey right now, one would have to imagine they would get up for the opportunity to put the Canadiens on the mat.
Martin appears to realize that danger is near and says he addressed his team's playoff chances with his players Tuesday, six days shy of Halloween.
"That was one of the things I spoke to the team about this morning, where we are right now and what we need to do to make the playoffs," Martin said. "I was trying to bring some urgency. In reality, we think we'll need 96 points to make the playoffs, which was our total last year. I wanted to be sure they see what it looks like. So we're conscious of it, and we need to act in order to correct this."
They would do well to act fast.
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Considering how slim their margin for error is at such an early stage of the season, these next three games against the Flyers and Bruins become that much more crucial.
"When you're facing a good opponent you have no choice but to bring your best," said goaltender Carey Price. "So it will hopefully bring our team together and we'll put a couple of good games together."
Price would be a key component of his team's ability to do just that.
His statistics this season are not very flattering, though they are somewhat misleading as well. For instance, in Saturday night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Price was probably his team's best player and the only reason that game wasn't a complete blowout, yet his save percentage on the night was a paltry .815.
"We have a couple of new guys in the system, so we've just got to get back to what made us successful last year," Price said. "We're a team that prides itself on good defense, and right now we just have to get back to the basics, collapse back down to the house and sort things out from there."
Still, Price's 1-4-2 record, 3.13 goals against average and .878 save percentage are not sitting well with the All-Star goalie.
"I'd like things to go a little bit better, but I can't dwell on it now," he said. "All we need to do is score a few goals and win a few games. All it takes is a couple of wins to get things rolling in the right direction."
In an effort to change his luck, Price will be abandoning his pink-themed equipment and mask that he was wearing to promote breast cancer awareness. They will be auctioned off at the end of the month for charity, but for now, the usually non-superstitious Price has decided the pads have to go.
"Why? 0-6," Price said of his record in the pads, which is in fact 0-3-2, before referencing a method pitcher Nuke LaLoosh used to go on a winning streak in the classic baseball movie Bull Durham. "I'm a loss away from wearing a garter belt."
But as grim as things may seem in Montreal, the Canadiens are not exactly playing horrendous hockey. Prior to Tuesday night's games, Montreal was fourth in the NHL in shots on goal per game and seventh in fewest shots allowed per game. And the Canadiens goals for and against at 5-on-5 -- a chronic weakness -- is sitting at even.
But their special teams -- a traditional strength -- have been horrible. Montreal's once feared power play is 29th in the League and the penalty kill is 20th.
Both may get a boost when defenseman Andrei Markov completes his rehab from knee surgery and returns to the lineup. He is expected to return from a three-week visit to Florida to work out under the watchful eye of his surgeon by Friday, and it is hoped he will begin skating with the team shortly thereafter.
But the Canadiens can't wait that long to right their sinking special teams ship.
"The guys are still confident," Martin said. "We're doing some things well and we need to continue doing those things, but there are other things we need to improve on."
Price said the team's short-term goal right now is to get back to .500, and the Canadiens sit just four wins shy of that mark.