COLUMBUS - The Canadiens held an optional skate on Friday morning at Nationwide Arena in Columbus in preparation for their tilt against the Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. EST.
- Al Montoya will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. That will be the only lineup change from Wednesday night's 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks when Carey Price posted a 42-save shutout effort at the Bell Centre. The win officially gave the Habs their best start to a season in franchise history through 10 games (collecting 19 out of a possible 20 points).
- Forward Daniel Carr and defenseman Joel Hanley, who were called up from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps earlier in the week, will both be healthy scratches against the Blue Jackets.
- Michel Therrien's troops will be going in search of their ninth consecutive victory on Friday night - and look to remain the NHL's only undefeated team in regulation time in the process. They'll be doing so against a Blue Jackets squad that is 4-1-1 in its last six games, outscoring the opposition by a 16-10 margin during that span.
- Strong special teams play has been key for John Tortorella's club early on this season, particularly on the power play. Columbus has converted on 35 percent of its opportunities with the man advantage, which has them sitting atop the league in that department.
With that in mind, the Canadiens are well aware that playing a disciplined brand of hockey will be of the utmost importance on Friday night, even if they rank third overall while down a man, operating at a 90 percent efficiency rating in those types of situations.
"First of all, [we have to] stay out of the box. Obviously, that helps a lot. We went through a lot of video clips this morning and they do a real good job of getting a lot of pucks to the net, and they have traffic there," said Brian Flynn. "We'll have to do a good job on faceoffs [when short-handed] and get it out right away, and try not to let them set up as much as possible."
- While the Canadiens are rolling, it's safe to say they aren't taking the Blue Jackets for granted - even if they do rank 11 places below them in the Eastern Conference standings entering Friday night's action. As solid as Columbus is up front, they're equally talented on the back end with the likes of Seth Jones, Jack Johnson and Zach Werenski patrolling the blue line. For his part, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has caught fire between the pipes, posting a 1.50 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage in his last six games.
"They have a young group of defensemen, but they play really well. They're very mobile and they move the puck around quickly and get involved a lot offensively," said Therrien, on the subject of a Blue Jackets club that is surging right now. "Their goaltender has been phenomenal since the start of the year. Tonight will be a real challenge."
Like his bench boss, Phillip Danault fully expects the Blue Jackets to bring everything they've got on Friday night in an effort to try to take down the NHL's top club.
"They're a team that's really intense, just like all of the other teams in the NHL," said Danault. "They have really good players and good leaders. I'm expecting a really intense game tonight."
- The contest will be broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, as well as on TSN 690 and 98.5 fm.
Probable lineup against Columbus: