CANADIENS (27-18-5) vs. RED WINGS (22-18-10)
On Friday night, the Canadiens will head to Joe Louis Arena and tussle against Original Six rival Detroit Red Wings.
Montreal had a night to forget on Wednesday against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins. The home team scored five times in the first 35 minutes of play and chased Carey Price from his crease. Jussi Jokinen lit the lamp twice while Evgeni Malkin and Matt Niskanen both also had two points. Rene Bourque was the lone scorer for the Canadiens and had a team-high five shots on net.
On the same night, the injury-decimated Red Wings pulled off a monumental upset by defeating the defending Cup champions 5-4 in a shootout. Despite finding themselves down 2-0 by the halfway mark of the first frame, the Wings stormed back to take a 4-3 lead entering the third period. Marcus Kruger scored unassisted for the Blackhawks to force overtime, which solved nothing. Finally, Darren Helm beat Corey Crawford in the sixth round of the shootout to help Detroit to a much-needed win against the Western Conference powerhouse.
The Red Wings have been snake-bit in their first season back in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. The Habs’ newest division rival has seen its All-Stars injured for extended stretches of time, impacting the team’s effectiveness on both sides of the puck. Not only has the team been shut out six times already this season, but it has failed to score more than two goals in 12 of its past 20 games. This is not surprising considering that offensive catalysts Pavel Datsyuk, John Franzen and Stephen Weiss are all currently on injured reserve. If that is not bad enough, their Sochi-bound starting goaltender Jimmy Howard is also day-to-day with a knee injury.
Working with a depleted line-up featuring several AHL call-ups, coach Mike Babcock, an alumnus of Montreal’s McGill University, has been hard-pressed to work his magic. Depth forwards Drew Miller and Luke Glendening both spent over 19 minutes on the ice on Wednesday, they who averaged just over 12 minutes per game in their respective careers. As a figure of comparison, front-liners Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty were the only Montreal forwards to play north of 19 minutes against the Penguins.
Babcock’s counterpart Michel Therrien will also look for new solutions on Friday, having benched defensemen Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz while penciling in prospects Louis Leblanc and Nathan Beaulieu in a bit to give his team a new look on Wednesday night. Look for his staff to make more changes to their line-up in an effort to revive a team which has gone 4-4-2 in its past ten outings.
Friday’s game will be the first of four season meetings between Montreal and Detroit. On January 25 2012, Montreal won 7-2 against the Wings at the Bell Centre thanks to three-point efforts from David Desharnais and Erik Cole. The Habs will be looking for their first win at the Joe since November 26 2008. On that night, Carey Price made 32 saves on 33 shots and Tomas Plekanec had the powerplay game-winner in a 3-1 decision.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM E.S.T.
Tough night at the office
Number cruncher – The Odd Couple