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Drouin: 'It's really about the first team that cracks'

A dangerous Coyotes squad awaits the Canadiens, and Claude Julien's players know it

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

GLENDALE - With a 7-1-1 record in their last nine games, the Coyotes present a formidable challenge on Wednesday night at Gila River Arena.

Why is Arizona enjoying success so far this success? After seeing the game tape, Jonathan Drouin has a theory.

"They play good defensive hockey and have good commitment. You see that everyone there is on the same page," offered Drouin, regarding a squad that ranks second in the League in goals against per game (2.18) behind only the Boston Bruins. "There's not much room. We know what we're facing. We try to play the same way."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Claude Julien confirme qu���il n���apportera pas de changement �� la formation pour le match de ce soir, en Arizona.Claude Julien confirms there will be no changes to the lineup tonight in Arizona.#GoHabsGo

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper has also been a rock in between the pipes with a sparkling 1.87 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage as well.

Kuemper won't be starting against the Canadiens, though. They'll face Antti Raanta instead.

Regardless, head coach Claude Julien knows his hockey club will be tested to begin their three-game road swing.

"They're fast. They play fast. They take a lot of pride in their defensive game. You see them coming back in their own end, they swarm and they don't curl away," explained Julien. "They're a good team. You look at their record. To me, it's not there by accident. We've got our hands full this road trip, especially starting tonight. We're going to have to bring our "A" game."

Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference @ ARI

According to Drouin, that means playing an especially patient brand of hockey.

"Since they don't give up very much, it's really about the first team that cracks. We have to let chances come," mentioned Drouin, who sits tied for the team lead in points with 10 alongside Brendan Gallagher and Max Domi. "I think it's the team that's going to get frustrated first that's going to lose."

No doubt securing two points in Maricopa County would be the ideal way to kick off their third set of back-to-back games on the year. Remember that the Canadiens will be in action again on Thursday night in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.

Getting some good mojo going heading into a raucous T-Mobile Arena is big.

"It's definitely a road trip where you don't want to get back in the standings. You don't want to get lost down there," insisted Drouin. "For us, these points are important."

Talking Svechnikov

Carolina Hurricanes youngster Andrei Svechnikov shocked the hockey world with his epic lacrosse-style goal against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

Goaltender David Rittich was the victim of Svechnikov's cleverness on home ice.

Watch: Youtube Video

Julien's troops - including Drouin - caught the highlight, but would he actually give it a shot himself?

"I might try it, but it isn't the first thing I'd do around the net. It's spectacular, though," said Drouin. "He's the first player to do it in the NHL. You see it more in the AHL and in Europe, but it's cool to see it's the first in the League."

While Drouin has practiced the maneuver before, he admitted to falling short of completing it.

But he won't be trying to put the puck past Price that way anytime soon.

"I don't want to get a slash on the back of the leg," joked Drouin. "We'll keep that for another goaltender."

Remembering Jim Gregory

On Wednesday morning, the NHL announced that Hockey Hall of Famer, former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager, and League executive, Jim Gregory, had passed away at age 83.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim Gregory who passed away earlier today at age 83. Jim was not only a great hockey man, he was a great person.

Julien addressed Gregory's death during his pregame press conference.

"What a great gentleman. When you've been around the League for a long time, everybody knows Jim Gregory," said Julien. "He was a great hockey person. You're used to seeing him at the Draft up on the stage. He's going to be dearly missed. What an impact he left on our game. Most of all, he was a really respected individual. Everybody liked him. It's sad to see a great man leave us."

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