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Game preview: MTL @ STL

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

CANADIENS (21-12-3) vs. BLUES (22-7-4)

Against the Coyotes, the Habs powerplay bailed the team out, as the Canadiens scored three unanswered goals in the third period for an important home win against on Tuesday. Now, the team is in St. Louis and hope to continue their resurgence against the Blues on Thursday night.

Carey Price was the early hero against the Coyotes, saving 14 of 15 shots faced in the first period, as the Canadiens were heavily out-played by the visiting team. Meanwhile, the Habs, despite two early breakaways, could do no better than four shots on Mike Smith. Mikkel Boedker put Phoenix in the lead by driving hard to the net in the middle of the frame.

The turning point of the game appeared to have been a perfect four-minute penalty kill by the Habs in the second period. Following the successful kill, Michel Therrien’s players regrouped, began making smart lateral plays which had been their signature most of last season, and generated a large number of odd-man rushes which left Phoenix defenders scrambling. The true breakthrough came on the man advantage, when Andrei Markov beat Smith between the legs with an accurate slapper two minutes into the third period. Max Pacioretty put the Habs up for good ten minutes later on another powerplay, and iced the victory with an empty net goal as time expired.

Price will be between the pipes again on Thursday night. Ryan White draws into the lineup, while Daniel Briere is a healthy scratch.

On the same night, the Blues went up against the high-powered San Jose Sharks and dropped a 4-2 home decision. Joe Pavelski, Matt Irwin and Brent Burns put the visiting team up by three, and oft-injured Martin Havlat closed out the win with his third of the season. Lighting the lamp for the Blues were defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester. Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves on 27 shots.

Despite going scoreless in his last game, Alex Steen is still producing goals at a breakneck pace. The left-winger has 22 goals in 33 games, and is two shy of equalling his career high, realized over 68 games in 2009-10. On defense, the Blue has two of the more dependable two-way blueliners across the league in Alex Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester. The elite defensive brigade also includes offensively-inclined Kevin Shattenkirk and shutdown specialist Barret Jackman. They’ll be backed up by goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Halak has made the large share of starts this year, but Elliott has a lower goals-against-average and a higher saves percentage through 12 games.

Absent for the Blues are captain David Backes, who is out for a week with an upper-body injury, Jordan Leopold and Ryan Reaves. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka are also injured, though they are day-to-day.

As for the Canadiens, George Parros is the only player out with injury, Rene Bourque having made a successful return to action on Tuesday against the Coyotes.

Thursday’s game will be the second of two matchups between Montreal and St. Louis in 2013-14. On November 9, 2013, the Blues visited the Bell Centre and came away with a 3-2 shootout win. T.J. Oshie was the lone scorer in the shootout. The Habs will be shooting for a first win in the Gateway City since November 2008.

Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST.

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