CANADIENS (15-15-2) at THRASHERS (15-11-3)
Last 10 -- Montreal 4-4-2; Atlanta 5-4-1
Season series -- This is the third of four meetings for the Thrashers and the Canadiens. Montreal grabbed a 2-1 shootout win on Oct. 20 with Scott Gomez recording the game-winner and Atlanta edged the Habs two weeks later for a 5-4 victory. It was the Thrashers' first regulation win at the Bell Centre in five years.
Big story -- The Thrashers are dealing with four straight losses as Montreal rolls into town on Saturday, while the Canadiens hope to rebound from a tough loss to the Pens after having won the previous three. The Habs sit just one point behind the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference standings.
Canadiens -- Since celebrating their Centennial a week ago Friday, Montreal has been near-perfect, save a 3-2 loss to the Pens on Thursday. Montreal was foiled from tying the game when a controversial whistle negated Gomez's third-period goal. Matt D'Agostini and Roman Hamrlik scored for the Habs, but the real story was the 38 saves that netminder Carey Price recorded. Price also made 14 saves in the Canadiens' 4-1 win over the Flyers on Monday and 38 in the 5-1 undressing of the Bruins on Dec. 4.
"I think the puck was loose, but the decision was taken during the play and we can't change it now, it's too late," Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre said of the Gomez non-goal. "But I think the team gave a good effort. Carey played unbelievable again for us, and we still have to build on the last four games we've played."
Thrashers -- The Thrashers will certainly be happy to return home after three straight road losses this week. In Toronto on Monday, Atlanta fell 5-2 and then suffered back-to-back losses on Wednesday and Thursday, 3-1 to the Flames and 4-2 to the Canucks. On Thursday the Thrashers were bested by a Daniel Sedin hat trick, but Colby Armstrong and Nik Antropov both found the back of the net. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Sedin's third goal found its way past Ondrej Pavelec on a deflection off Antropov. Pavelec finished the night with 34 saves.
"We've been getting bad breaks the last two or three games, and when that one went off Antropov, when you are a fragile team your team starts to sag," coach John Anderson said. "And then when Evander Kane scores and they don't allow it, again it starts sucking the life out of your team."
Who's hot -- Price has played well and should get the start on Saturday. Mike Cammalleri has had nine points in his last four games and leads the Habs with 17 goals. Marc-Andre Bergeron has picked up his production with four points in his last three games. … Armstrong has a goal in his last two games, while Rich Peverley, with three points in his last two, leads the Thrashers with 29 points.
Injury report -- Canadiens defenseman Paul Mara is questionable for Saturday with an upper-body injury. Andrei Markov (severed ankle tendons) skated for an intense 55 minutes on Friday, but has yet to participate in contact drills. Brian Gionta (broken left foot) will meet with doctors on Monday to evaluate his injury, while Benoit Pouliot (wrist) could be back for Saturday. … Atlanta is without goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who underwent back surgery.
Stat pack -- The Canadiens haven't won in regulation in Atlanta since Jan. 28, 2007.
Puck drop -- With the two teams bunched together in the standings, and with two close games already played this season, this one should prove to be quite the matchup.