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Game preview: MTL @ PHX

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

CANADIENS (35-22-7) vs. COYOTES (28-23-11)

The Habs will continue their western US roadtrip with a Thursday night stop at the Phoenix Coyotes’ Arena.

On Wednesday night, the Canadiens knocked off the Anaheim Ducks, the NHL’s top team, with a 4-3 shootout win. Dustin Tokarski, recalled from Hamilton after Carey Price went down with injury, made his first start for Montreal and stopped 39 of 42 shots. Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher scored for the Habs, while Andrei Markov had the deciding goal in the sixth round of the shootout.

The typically tight-checking Coyotes are coming off a 1-0 win over Vancouver on Tuesday. Antoine Vermette got the lone goal of the game and Mike Smith made 23 saves for the shutout.

The Coyotes boast a very solid top-four featuring blueliners Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Zbynek Michalek and Derek Morris. Their offense is led by off-season acquisition Mike Ribeiro, volume shooter Radim Vrbata, and two-way pivot Antoine Vermette, the team’s lone 20-goal scorer.

For Phoenix, Martin Hanzal is day-to-day with a lower-body injury and may not play on Thursday. Derek Morris, who is recovering from a facial laceration, will probably suit up.

Thomas Vanek, acquired on Wednesday from the NY Islanders, is anticipated to play for the first time for the Canadiens. Defenseman Mike Weaver, acquired on Tuesday from the Panthers, could also debut for his new team. Carey Price, Michael Bournival and Brandon Prust made the trip, but are likely to sit out with respective injuries. Josh Gorges, who has a hand injury, will not take part in the game.

Thursday night’s match-up will be the second of two this season between both teams. On December 17, the Habs won 3-1 at the Bell Centre thanks to three points from Max Pacioretty. Last time the team visited Arizona, in November 2011, Josh Gorges scored the overtime winner for Montreal.

Puck drop is scheduled for 9PM E.S.T.

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