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Game preview: MTL @ DAL

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

CANADIENS (23-14-4) @ STARS (20-12-7)

For their first game of 2014, the Habs are in Texas to take on the streaking Dallas Stars.

Better discipline may well be one of the Canadiens’ New Year’s resolutions, as the team took ten minor penalties and blew a 3-0 third-period lead en route to a 5-4 overtime loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. Lars Eller struck first for the Habs and Max Pacioretty added two more goals to give the visiting team a comfortable lead, but Jeff Skinner had two goals and an assist in a 2:29 span to draw the Hurricanes even early in the third. Manny Malhotra then pushed the Canadiens to the brink with a goal midway through the third period, but P.K. Subban blasted a shot home on the powerplay two minutes later to tie the game yet again. In the extra frame, Alexander Semin beat Carey Price low to cap off his team’s comeback win. Price had 37 saves on 42 shots, while Cam Ward stopped 21 of 25.

It was the third time this season when the Canadiens have given up more than 40 shots in a game. They are 1-0-2 when doing so. With the 2013-14 season exactly halfway completed, the Habs are slightly in the red in terms of shot differential, directing the puck on net an average of 28.4 times in the first 41 games (20th in the NHL) while conceding 30.1 shots per game (20th in the NHL) in the same span.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars are ranked 11th league-wide in terms of shots of goal for, but only 23rd overall in shots against. Still, Lindy Ruff’s team has put together a solid record, especially of late. The Stars have not lost in regulation in over two weeks, going 5-0-2 in that span. Last time out, they eked out a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings thanks to a two-goal performance from former Hab Erik Cole.

Dallas boasts an incredibly young yet productive offensive core. Five out of their top six scorers are 24 or younger. Leading scorer Tyler Seguin (39pts in 37GP) is 22, while 18 year-old rookie Valeri Nichushkin has 20 points in 38 games. The only player older than 24 to be on pace for a 40-point season is the aforementioned Cole, who has ten goals and ten assists in his 13th NHL campaign.

Thursday’s game will be the second of two between the clubs this season. On October 29 2013, Rene Bourque scored the winning goal as the Habs won 2-1 against the Stars at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens will be looking for their first win in Texas since March of 2009.

The puck drops at 8:30PM E.S.T.

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