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Slowing down the Jets' attack early a top priority

Following a rough outing in Minnesota, the Canadiens look to rebound in Winnipeg on Saturday night

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

WINNIPEG - The Canadiens fully expect the Jets to come out firing on Saturday night at Bell MTS Place.

Paul Maurice's squad is notorious for getting off to strong starts so far this season, having outscored their opponents by a 20-9 margin during the first period.

Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have scored more goals (21) than their Manitoba-based counterparts during the opening frame, so keeping the Jets off the scoresheet early is a top priority.

"It will take a solid game tonight, not just offensively, but defensively as well. We definitely can't give up those quick early goals," said head coach Claude Julien, referencing the Canadiens' struggles against the Minnesota Wild in their previous outing on Thursday, when they found themselves down 3-0 after 20 minutes. "We have to be ready from the start of the game and we have to have a good first period."

Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference

Brendan Gallagher touched on that point as well on Saturday morning during his pregame media availability.

"We know how they play, especially in this building. They always like to play physical and get the crowd involved," said Gallagher, who is coming off a two-goal effort at the Xcel Energy Center. "I think both sides are going to try to control it. Hopefully, we get off to a good start. I know they've been playing pretty well here in the first period, so for us [it's important] to get off to a good start and build on it from there."

Keeping the Jets from lighting the lamp means trying to stymie the likes of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine. For his part, Scheifele is coming off a hat trick in the Jets' 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

"He's one of the most underrated players in the league. You see what he does, how important he is to this team. He's coming off a hat trick last game, so he's going to be feeling pretty good," said Gallagher, on the Jets' sniper. "He's just a dangerous player. You know when he's on the ice, he can hurt you in many ways. We've got to be aware of it. Hopefully, he doesn't hurt us tonight."

Video: Brendan Gallagher on the challenge of facing the Jets

If the Canadiens are going to be featuring any lineup changes, Julien wasn't about to share them on Saturday morning. Any such moves will be a game-time decision.

He did confirm, however, that Charlie Lindgren will back up starter Al Montoya as Carey Price remains day-to-day with a minor lower-body injury.

Following the contest, the Canadiens will fly to Chicago where they'll take on the Blackhawks on Sunday night to wrap up their three-game road trip.

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