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Game preview: Predators @ Canadiens

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

PREDATORS (3-3-1) @ CANADIENS (5-2-0)

The Canadiens go in search of a fifth consecutive victory when they play host to the Predators on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Michel Therrien’s troops are coming off a hard-fought 5-3 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday night in Montreal. The Habs owned a 3-0 lead in the hockey game on goals from Rene Bourque, Michael Bournival and Andrei Markov, but Columbus fought back with three unanswered markers of their own. Tomas Plekanec scored the eventual game-winning goal with 67 seconds remaining in regulation time, before adding a short-handed empty-netter to cap the scoring for the Canadiens. Carey Price turned aside 30 shots to earn his fourth victory of the year.

Having racked up 10 out of a possible 12 points in their last six games, the Habs are clearly on a roll. While the bleu-blanc-rouge will be deprived of Max Pacioretty’s services for the next three weeks due to a strained left hamstring, Therrien can certainly count on a bevy of players to pick up the slack offensively in the sniper’s absence. Over the course of their four-game winning streak, 17 different players have factored in on the score sheet for the Canadiens, who are currently ranked fourth in the league with just over three-and-a-half goals per game.

Francis Bouillon will go up against his former team for the first time since re-joining the Canadiens prior to last season. The 38-year-old rearguard spent three years in Nashville between 2009 and 2012, suiting up for 191 regular season games and helping several of the defensemen who now patrol the Predators blue line become increasingly comfortable with life in the NHL ranks.

Barry Trotz’s club, meanwhile, dropped a 2-1 decision to the Kings in a shootout on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The loss snapped the Predators’ two-game winning streak.

Centermen Mike Fisher and Craig Smith have led the way offensively for the Predators through seven games. The pair sit atop Nashville’s scoring list with five points. Two-time Vezina Trophy nominee Pekka Rinne has started every game for the Tennessee-based franchise in 2013-14, and will likely get the call once again come Saturday night. Montrealers will also get their first look at 19-year-old rookie sensation Seth Jones, who is averaging 23:47 of ice time per game and continues to be heavily counted upon in the absence of star rearguard Roman Josi.

Historically, the two clubs have squared off 14 times since the Predators joined the NHL ahead of the 1998-99 campaign with the Canadiens coming out on top eight times. Saturday night’s tilt will be the first meeting between Nashville and Montreal in La Belle Province since Nov. 18, 2010. The two teams will meet again in the Music City in December.

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

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