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The Habs this week - March 9, 2009

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL - There’s no place like home. So said Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and, with a 20-6-4 record at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens surely aren’t about to dispute it. After spending the better part of the last month as the visitor, the Habs will play nine of their next 10 in front of their fans, which could provide that extra advantage as the club looks to tighten its grip on a postseason appearance.

Canadiens vs. Oilers – Tuesday, March 10 @ 7:30 PM

The Oilers’ wrap up a four-game road swing on Tuesday with their first Bell Centre visit since November 2006. In the thick of the Western Conference battle for a playoff berth, Edmonton will surely want to skate away with the two points after going 1-1-1 on the trip so far. While they sit seventh in the West, Craig McTavish’s crew is tied with Nashville (eighth) and Dallas (ninth) with 70 points and by virtue of a game in hand, benefits from the higher seeding.

After scoring power play goals in five of six games after acquiring Mathieu Schneider, the Canadiens have hit a snag recently with the extra attacker, failing to convert in their last three games.  Perhaps a date with one of the league’s worst penalty-killing units will set things in order; the Oilers sit 28th overall and 29th on the road when shorthanded.

Speaking of the power play, Tuesday’s contest will mark Sheldon Souray’s return to Montreal, with the former Hab sitting on the visitor’s bench for the first time since he was a Devil in 1999-2000.

Canadiens vs. Islanders – Thursday, March 12 @ 7:30 PM

It’s often said that some of the toughest battles come against those with nothing to lose. With that in mind, the Canadiens will want to be wary of the Islanders, who have been in that situation for nearly the entire season.

Mired in last place in the NHL, the Isles have reveled in their spoiler role of late, surprising the Sabres and Devils – the latter, twice – in winning four of their last five. And, with the loss of veterans to trade (Bill Guerin) and injury (Doug Weight), youth has been served up on the island and the youngsters have been serving their team well.  Over the weekend, nine of New York’s 10 goals were scored by players 25 and under, with three guys accounting for more than a goal in those two outings.

A key area where the Canadiens can take advantage of a hungry Islanders squad is in the faceoff circle. Buoyed by Saku Koivu’s 54.6% success rate on the draw this season, the Habs find themselves tied for 12th in the league in that category heading into the week.

Canadiens vs. Devils – Saturday, March 14 @ 7 PM

Tom and Jerry. Superman and Lex Luthor. Seinfeld and Newman.  Everyone has their nemesis and for the Canadiens, it would be the Devils. New Jersey had topped Montreal in nine straight games from November 18, 2005 through November 30, 2007 before the Canadiens snapped the skid and reeled off three consecutive wins of their own to take the series last season.  While the Devils have taken the three meetings so far this year, the Canadiens have had better luck against them at home, taking at least a point in five of their last eight battles at the Bell Centre.

After faring way better than anyone could have ever imagined while Martin Brodeur recovered from elbow surgery, the Devils welcomed their perennial All-Star netminder back to the lineup on Feb. 26.  Brodeur and his teammates picked up right where he left off, winning four straight to see him inch closer to top spot for career wins by a goaltender, currently held by Patrick Roy.  As if scripted by Hollywood, it appeared the Montreal native would have the opportunity to break the record at the Bell Centre.  But, a shocking 7-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday closed that door, leaving Brodeur to, at best, match the mark.

Heather Engel is a writer for

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