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Preview: Blue Jackets at Canadiens

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

BLUE JACKETS (2-3-0) at CANADIENS (4-2-0)

After a day of practice on Wednesday and some time to recover from Tuesday's 2-1 loss in Detroit, the Blue Jackets are eager to get right back at it on Thursday in Montreal. It's the second game of a three-game road trip that will take the Blue Jackets to the nation's capital on Saturday before returning home for four straight games beginning Sunday. 

Columbus pumped 37 shots at Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, scoring one goal off the stick of Cam Atkinson but creating countless opportunities. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards liked the solid team game the Blue Jackets played on Tuesday, and said he hopes to see more of the same as this road trip continues north of the border. Don't expect any changes to the lineup for Thursday's game, which means Dalton Prout is likely to be scratched for a second consecutive game.

It should be a quality goaltending match-up at the Bell Centre between two of the league's best, with Carey Price going toe-to-toe against Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Canadiens are on a roll, having won three straight games and enter tonight's game with a 4-2-0 record. Leading the way has been Price, the No. 1 goaltender in Montreal and a guy who's playing not just for his team but also a potential spot on the Canadian Olympic roster.

Montreal's recent road swing through western Canada took the club through Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg, and three convincing decisions later, the Canadiens returns to La Belle Province as one of the NHL's hottest teams.

Price has stopped 101 of the last 103 pucks directed his way - including 75 of 76 in his two most recent outings - and is giving coach Michel Therrien's club a fighting chance to win every single night. Special teams, something the Canadiens struggled with last season, have been in their favor early on and the power play is clicking at a rate of nearly 27 percent.

They're creating chances with better puck movement, a renewed willingness to shoot the puck from all angles, and a great transition game led by Norris Trophy winner PK Subban.

The key to tonight's game for the Blue Jackets is a familiar one: they have to find a way - whatever it may be - to convert on their chances and especially so at even strength.

Through five games, Columbus has scored just seven 5-on-5 goals and despite nearly 40 shots on Tuesday night in Detroit, the Blue Jackets' only breakthrough was an end-to-end power play goal (unassisted) from Cam Atkinson in the second period. 

Whether it's getting to the net, not passing up a chance to shoot the puck or a number of other factors, the Blue Jackets simply have to pick it up offensively if they're going to come back home this weekend with some points.



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