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Game preview: MTL @ NYI

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

CANADIENS (19-11-3) vs. ISLANDERS (9-19-5)

After dropping a chippy, low-scoring affaire 2-1 against the Flyers on Thursday, the Habs head to Long Island in hopes of snapping a two-game losing skid.

Though Carey Price had a bounce-back performance after getting pulled in his previous start, against the Kings on Tuesday, his 25 saves on 27 shots were not enough to help his team get the win Thursday night. The Canadiens were shut out by the home team for 59 minutes before Alex Galchenyuk pounced on a rebound to break Steve Mason’s shutout bid. Claude Giroux, who led all forwards with 20:47 in icetime, had a goal and an assist for the Flyers.

In the same evening, the New York Islanders were maimed 6-3 by the Coyotes in Phoenix. The home team broke the game wide open with a four-goal second period, after both teams traded goals in the first. The Coyotes’ Rob Klinkhammer had two goals and an assist, while linemate Mike Ribeiro also had a three-point night. Kevin Poulin, the Islanders’ starter by default in the absence of Evgeni Nabokov, made 31 saves on 37 shots to take the loss.

The Islanders’ 20th-ranked offence is led by John Tavares (37 points in 33 games), Kyle Okposo (29 points in 33 games) and newcomer Thomas Vanek (13 points in 17 games). Vanek is the only forward on the team with a positive plus/minus rating, with a +1 rating since arriving in Long Island. The 30th ranked defensive team in the league has been counting on Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic to shut down the best opposing forwards, though highly-touted rookie Calvin de Haan was recently called up to provide much-needed reinforcement at the blueline.

Absent for the Islanders will be powerplay quarterback Lubomir Visnovsky, who is on injury reserve with a concussion, and veteran rearguard Radek Martinek, who has a back injury. Evgeni Nabokov has been activated from IR and could play Saturday against the Habs.

As for the Canadiens, Rene Bourque did not make the trip and is still out with an upper-body injury, but coach Michel Therrien believes he will be back early next week.

Coach Therrien also confirmed that Carey Price will start against the Islanders. He holds a 6-2-0-3 record in 11 career games against the Isles.

Saturday’s game will be the second of three matchups between Montreal and the Isles in 2013-14. The Habs took the first game of the season series 4-2 at the Bell Centre on November 10. Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk both had one goal and two assists on that night. Both teams last met at the Nassau Memorial Coliseum on March 21, 2013. On that night, the Habs came out on top 5-2.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST.

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