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Game Preview: Canadiens @ Flames

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

CANADIENS (1-1-0) @ FLAMES (1-0-2)

The Canadiens begin a four-game road trip with a Wednesday night tilt against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Michel Therrien’s squad is coming off a 4-1 home victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. Carey Price stopped 22 of 23 shots faced at the Bell Centre, while Brian Gionta, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque found the net for the Habs.

After a challenging offseason in which their home rink was severely damaged by flooding, the Flames kicked off the 2013-14 campaign in surprisingly good form. Bob Hartley’s squad has yet to lose in regulation time and managed to put 12 goals on the board through three regular season games. The Flames dropped a 5-4 decision in a shootout against Washington to open up the season. Then, they lit up reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky four times en route to a 4-3 win in Columbus before succumbing to the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in overtime. Pegged by most hockey insiders to finish at the bottom of the new Pacific Division, the Flames are locked in a four-way tie for the division lead. All in all, the Habs will need to bring their A game against Calgary if they want to build on last Saturday’s win over the Flyers.

Despite injuries to Mike Cammalleri and Matt Stajan, the Flames have been able to count on the offensive contributions of several other forwards. Jiri Hudler and David Jones have led the team with four points in three games thus far, while right winger Lee Stempniak leads Calgary with 16 shots on goal. In comparison, Montreal’s Lars Eller has five points in two games, while co-leading the Canadiens in shots alongside linemate Brendan Gallagher with nine.

On the defensive side of the puck, Hartley will likely trust newly-minted captain Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman to eat up tough minutes against the Habs. The Flames’ rearguards will be hard-pressed to contain the Canadiens’ up-tempo offence, as Calgary’s goaltending tandem of Karri Ramo and Joey MacDonald currently ranks 29th in the league in goals against.

On Wednesday night, the Canadiens will look to snap a three-game losing streak against the Flames dating back to February 2011.

While Gallagher, an Alberta native, will have a rare chance to play in front of extended family making the drive down to the Saddledome, Bourque will be making a return to a city where he spent three-and-a-half years as a member of the Flames. It will be Bourque’s 500th NHL regular season game.

Max Pacioretty, who missed the last game with an upper-body injury, made the trip to Calgary with his teammates and will dress for Wednesday’s game. Gionta, who rejoined the team on Tuesday night after attending to a family matter, will also take to the ice against the Flames. Nathan Beaulieu has been called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs to act as a reserve defenseman on the four-game road trip.

Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST.

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