NEWARK - As they get set for the third game of their six-game road trip, the Habs are aware they'll have to be mindful of a certain menace when they take on the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday night if they are to keep their seven-game points streak alive.
Of course, that threat is the red-hot, resurgent Taylor Hall.
The 26-year-old has had an explosive second season with the Devils, having reached the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Hall is currently riding a 25-game points streak, scoring 18 goals and adding as many assists since January 2.
"He's got a lot of speed; he's excellent," outlined Phillip Danault of Hall. "We're going to have to play tight defensively against his line."
Habs head coach Claude Julien added that Hall tends to be a squirmy player, and that his troops will have to be on the alert all night long if they are to keep the 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward off the scoresheet.
"He's a highly skilled player. He's big, he's strong, he can skate and shoot. He has a lot of upside to his game, and he's having a great year. For us, it's knowing where he is. He can be pretty slippery, too. [He'll] sneak in behind the defensemen, and first thing you know, he's on a breakaway. He has the ability to do that," said Julien. "Tonight, as a group, we have to really know where he is on the ice at all times. You always want to take space and time away from players like that. When you do give them those situations, they make the most of it. We're going to keep an eye on him tonight."
That said, Danault was cognizant of the fact that the Devils are not a one-man show, and that there are many reasons they find themselves back in playoff position after finishing dead-last in the Eastern Conference last season.
"They have a big team, it isn't just one player. They have a good first line, so we'll have to watch out for that," continued Danault. "But they have three other good lines, so it'll have to be a group effort for 60 minutes from all the guys tonight."
Video: Phillip Danault on Taylor Hall
One of those "guys" is defenseman Rinat Valiev, acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Tomas Plekanec trade prior to the deadline. Valiev will be making his first appearance with the Canadiens on Tuesday night, a moment he's been looking forward to ever since he came into the fold.
"I'm so excited. Especially this year, my first game," glowed Valiev, who will indeed be playing his first NHL game since the 2015-16 season. "I'm really excited."
Video: Valiev on preparing for his first game of the season
For his part, Julien is looking forward to seeing what the young Russian rearguard can bring to the table where it matters most - in a real, live NHL contest.
"I haven't seen him play. I have all the information on him, but I'm looking forward to seeing him play. What I see in practice is a good skill level, a good skater. He has a lot of upside to him. Now, it's a matter of giving him the chance to show that in a game situation," added the coach. "That's what a lot of our young players are having right now, is that opportunity. He's one of the newest ones to get that same opportunity. We look forward to seeing him tonight and to being able to evaluate him a little bit better."
Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference
One of the reasons for Valiev's insertion into the lineup, Julien announced, was that David Schlemko is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Montreal skipper also told reporters that Antti Niemi is dealing with a lower-body injury and that Zach Fucale, called up on Monday evening, would be backing up starter Charlie Lindgren at the Prudential Center.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and the game will be available on TSN2 and RDS on television, and TSN 690 and 98,5 fm on the radio.