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Game Preview: Blue Jackets, Canadiens begin home-and-home

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens meet in a back-to-back, home-and-home set to close out their 2015-16 season series.

Both the Jackets and Canadiens are on the outside of the Eastern Conference's playoff picture, but in Montreal's case, it's been an unforeseen slide after a 9-0-0 start vaulted them to the top of the conference. At this point in the 2015-16 season, every point matters and both teams will be looking to grab as many as possible in the coming months.

In Montreal’s most recent game (Saturday night), the Canadiens picked up a much-needed win in shootout fashion over their biggest rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Picking up the two points in that contest put the Candiens just three points behind the New Jersey Devils for the East’s second wild card spot.

Montreal had taken an early two-goal lead in the first period thanks to David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann, but the Leafs scored two goals of their own to push the game into extra time. Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller both scored in the shootout, ending the Canadiens’ five-game losing streak.

The Canadiens are dealing with some injuries of their own, most notably No. 1 goaltender Carey Price, who suffered from a lower body injury on Nov. 25 and has been out of action since. He had won 10 of 12 starts prior to the injury, which is expected to keep him out of action until at least early February.

The Blue Jackets remain without their top two goaltenders, Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney, who are nursing groin and ankle injuries, respectively. The goaltending tandem is a young pair from the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL): 21-year-old Joonas Korpisalo and 23-year-old Anton Forsberg.

Korpisalo was strong in the Blue Jackets’ shootout loss to Boston on Saturday night, making 32 saves in regulation and overtime to give Columbus a chance to bounce back from a 2-0 deficit.

That game also marked the return of captain Nick Foligno and Matt Calvert to the Blue Jackets’ lineup. On Sunday, the team announced it had reassigned right wing Josh Anderson to the Monsters.

The last time these two teams met was not so long ago: Dec. 1 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for the Canadiens just 2:51 into the first period, the Blue Jackets hung around and Foligno evened the score late in the frame.

The second period was a scoreless one for both teams and, just when it felt that the game would certainly be going into overtime, Scott Hartnell was called for tripping and put the Canadiens on the power play with 2:34 left in regulation of a 1-1 tie.

Twenty-five seconds later, Pacioretty banged in a power play goal that stood up as the game-winner for Montreal, handing the Blue Jackets a disappointing defeat.

As mentioned above, in the Jackets’ last game against the Canadiens, Montreal captain Pacioretty had the game-winning goal for his team.

So far this season, he’s scored 19 goals and added 17 assists to lead the team in scoring with 36 points. He also leads the Canadiens in power play goals (seven) and game-winning goals (four).

The 27-year-old product of the University of Michigan was selected 22nd overall by Montreal in the 2007 NHL Draft and has spent all of his 447 career games with the Canadiens.

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