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Allen Gets Another Chance at Canadiens

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Jake Allen’s first game against the Montreal Canadiens didn’t go as well as he’d hoped.

With his friends and family making the eight-hour drive from Fredericton, NB, Allen made 26 saves but lost 4-1 to the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Nov. 20.

It was an important game for Allen, who grew up a Canadiens fan in part because his dad, Kurt, was one. Then, Jake played two seasons in Montreal in the QMJHL, where he recorded 39 wins. While there, he saw plenty of Canadiens games, which made him a bigger fan than he was previously.

Tonight, he starts in goal for the Blues and gets another chance to beat his childhood team. This time, he won’t be so nervous.

“He was really nervous when we were in Montreal there,” Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said today after the morning skate. “I don’t want to say it’s old hat, but he’s certainly more comfortable and calm about it than he was before.”

Allen has certainly looked comfortable and calm in net in 2015. Since turning the calendar to a new year, Allen has won six consecutive games and his 1.50 goals-against average ranks third in the League, while his .937 save-percentage ranks fifth.

“I just need to be myself out there and enjoy it,” Allen said. “I got away from that the last few games in 2014, but I just had to get back to that.”

Regarding tonight, Allen expects a tough test.

“They’ve got a lot of talent up there and firepower. Even from the back end, they’re a dangerous team,” he said. “They’re very well-rounded with (Carey) Price in net, solid defense, solid forwards. We’re going to have our hands full tonight.”

“In fairness to Jake, he’s played really well the last couple games,” Hitchcock said. “Let’s give him an opportunity. This is a big game for both teams and it’s an important comparison game. Let’s give him a chance and see what he can do.”

SIZING UP THE HABS

The Canadiens sit atop the Eastern Conference with 81 points and a 38-16-5 record. They have points in eight of their last nine games entering tonight’s contest at Scottrade Center.

“(They’re a) quick team, small forwards but a really good offense. Good goalie, too,” said defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. “They’ve been good so far this year. Just a lot of speed, good transition game, hard-working team.”

Max Pacioretty, who scored twice in the first meeting between the teams in November, was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week after posting four goals and two assists last week. In addition, the Canadiens will get center Alex Galchenyuk back in the lineup after missing two games with the flu.

“You have two teams that play with a lot of energy, two teams that are both having good years,” Hitchcock said. “We consider Montreal to be a good measuring stick for us to see where we’re at, and I’m sure they consider that from our standpoint. But more than anything, we need to get playing a little bit better early in the games and not chasing the games. We’ve had a lot of chasing going on the last few games. We caught Boston once, but you’re not going to catch good teams (often).

“For us, it’s the first period and in particular the first 10 minutes, we want to have a better start to the game.”

BLUE NOTES

Hitchcock shook up the lines in practice yesterday. He said he likes the new energy it brought to practice, forcing better communication on the ice as players figured each other out. Hitchcock said he’s looking forward to seeing the new lines in action today. “If it’s not good, it’s going to look not good right away. If it looks like it has potential, we’re hoping it shows that.”

Chris Hendrickson of North Dakota is having his wish granted through Make-A-Wish this week. Yesterday, he shot pucks and had lunch with T.J. Oshie after practice. Today, he took an Olympia ride, watched the morning skate and will attend tonight’s game. More on Hendrickson’s story is coming to stlouisblues.com later this week.

Since being recalled from the Chicago Wolves on Dec. 17, rookie Dmitrij Jaskin has scored eight goals and four assists (12 points). Jaskin ranks second in rookie goals for the month of February (5), trailing only Islanders’ rookie Anders Lee (6).

The Blues have won five of their last six games against the Canadiens (5-1-0). Tonight is the first meeting between the teams at Scottrade Center since Dec. 19, 2013. The last home regulation loss to Montreal was March 10, 2007.

The Canadiens haven’t scored a power-play goal at Scottrade Center since Jan. 6, 2000 - they are 0 for 28 in five games since then.

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