For most of the season, the Flames had been living up to their moniker. February has been a different story. After winning eight of 11 in January, Mike Keenan’s crew has dropped four straight and is still in search of their first win this month. Despite recent struggles, the club remains atop the Northwest Division (third in the West) and their season-long success has given them a seven-point lead over their nearest division suitors in Minnesota.
The Canadiens currently own a two-game winning streak against the Flames, both coming at the Bell Centre. They haven’t visited Calgary since January 2006 and will be looking for their first win at the Saddledome since January 2002. Cowtown hasn’t been all that kind to the Habs in the 21st century; the team is 1-3-2-1 since December 2, 2000.
While the Flames sit among the top 10 in the league with the extra attacker at home, they’ll want to be wary of the Canadiens, who have proven to be one of the more dangerous shorthanded squads. The Habs have found the back of the net nine times while down a man, second only to the Flyers. Tomas Plekanec
leads the way with three, second best in the NHL.Canadiens @ Oilers – Wednesday, Feb. 11 @ 10 PM
Excuse the Oilers if they’re feeling a little dizzy; 2008-09 has been quite the rollercoaster ride for the boys from the Alberta capital. After starting the season with four straight wins, Craig McTavish’s charges have struggled for consistency. The Oilers have yet to match their season-opening success, posting no better than three-game winning streaks on just three occasions since.
Despite their difficulties, they remain in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. Heading into the week, Edmonton was sitting in ninth place with 56 points - same as eighth-seed Vancouver, which has a game in hand – and just one back of Minnesota in seventh place. They’re not the only ones in a potentially precarious position; a mere three points separated the fifth through eighth seeds and the overall gap through 15th-place St. Louis was just six points.
The tilt will be the first time former Hab Sheldon Souray faces his former ‘mates. After a disappointing 2007-08 campaign marred by injury, the 32-year-old has bounced back with 14 goals and 34 points in 52 games.Canadiens @ Avalanche – Friday, Feb. 13 @ 9 PM
History hasn’t favored the Canadiens’ forays into Colorado over the years and with this week’s matchup set for Friday the 13th, it would be easy to assume that history might repeat itself. While Montreal has yet to leave Denver with a win in its pocket (0-5-1-1), the past is perhaps remotely on its side as their lone previous meeting on the fabled horror day came back on Friday, October 13, 1989. That night, the Canadiens edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3 at the then-Brendan Byrne Arena.
The post-lockout world has been a topsy-turvy one for the Avalanche. They’ve alternated playoff appearances with none at all and appeared poised for the latter once again this season. Mired in 14th place in the Western Conference, the club has been forced to deal with the loss of captain Joe Sakic to a double-shot of injuries as well 2007-08 leading scorer Paul Statsny, who had 31 points in 34 games before fracturing his forearm while blocking a shot on Dec. 23.Canadiens @ Canucks – Sunday, Feb. 15 @ 10 PM
The Northwest tour wraps up in Vancouver as the Canadiens touch down on GM Place for the first time since January 2006. At the start of the season, one would have been hard-pressed to find a Hab who circled this matchup on his calendar; the team has dropped four straight to the Canucks and haven’t tasted victory as the visitor since November 2000.
When January 2009 said goodbye a weekend ago, no one was happier than the Canucks. The club went into a tailspin in the first month of the new year, winning just twice in the first week before enduring an eight-game slide. That was snapped last Tuesday and, heading into this week, Alain Vigneault’s squad added a pair of Ws to their record, including a convincing 7-3 triumph over Chicago on Saturday.
There will be plenty of new faces on both sides of the ice as the Montreal and Vancouver are counting on just nine and eight players, respectively, from the lineup in their last matchup back in January 2007. While there will be many new bodies on the home side, the Habs will be very familiar with at least one – former Leaf Mats Sundin. Set to blow out 38 candles on Friday, the Swedish center had a slow start with his new team but had better luck over the weekend, notching three points in Saturday's triumph over the Blackhawks.Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com
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