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The Habs this week - Dec. 22, 2008

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Canadiens @ Penguins - Saturday, Dec. 27 @ 7 PM

Hockey bags will stay zipped closed until the weekend, when Guy Carbonneau and his troop head to Pittsburgh for a date with the Penguins. Though the calendar is approaching the midway mark of the campaign, Saturday night’s contest will be the first matchup of the year between the two clubs, who split the 2007-08 season series with each winning in the other’s barn.

While the Habs enjoy time off this week, the Penguins will be trying to get back on track.  Pittsburgh will hit the ice three times, including a Friday night tilt against the Devils in New Jersey.

It hasn’t been the season Michel Therrien’s crew had in mind after a springtime run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007-08.  The team has struggled for consistency since riding a six-game winning streak in early November, earning just six victories in the 15 games since, through Dec. 20.  That 6-7-2 stretch has seen them fall to fourth place in the Atlantic Division (as of Monday), trailing the division rival Devils (third) and Flyers (second) by three and five points, respectively.

Mellon Arena is familiar territory for four members of the Habs’ roster. Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Tom Kostopoulos and Georges Laraque appeared in a combined 857 games over their collective 15 seasons in a Penguins uniform.

Keep an eye on:
Andrei Markov:
Little known fact: Markov has an affinity for flightless birds.  The 30-year-old defenseman has racked up 21 points in 22 career contests against the Penguins, his best point-per-game clip versus any team he’s faced at least 10 times. He earned four of those points in last season’s series, including notching the two shootout-clinching goals in the Canadiens’ two wins.

Evgeni Malkin:
After a 106-point effort last season, Malkin, who currently leads the league in scoring, is already more than halfway there heading into Monday’s action.  On the verge of several early career milestones, including games played (200), goals (100) and points (250), the 22-year-old has been helping more than scoring himself so far this season.  Malkin has racked up 40 assists as of Monday but has lit the lamp just 15 times, putting him on pace for 38, after scoring 47 goals last year.

Heather Engel is a writer for

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