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Kinkaid hopes third time's the charm vs. Habs

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Keith Kinkaid will get another crack at a familiar foe when he starts Friday's 7 p.m. matchup against the Montreal Canadiens at Prudential Center.

Kinkaid started both of the Devils’ previous meetings with the Canadiens and came up empty both times.

He's looking to flip the script this time around.

“They say third time’s the charm, right?” the rookie netminder said after Thursday's practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

Kinkaid has won three of his last four decisions and three straight at The Rock. He made 38 saves in the Devils' last meeting with Montreal, a 6-2 loss at Bell Centre on Feb. 7 in which they were outshot 44-23.

The challenge won't be any easier this time. The Canadiens, who are battling the Rangers and Tampa Bay for the Eastern Conference lead, entered Thursday’s game against Washington holding a 19-2-1 record against the Metropolitan Division.

Carey Price is tied for the NHL lead with 41 wins and is tops in goals-against average (1.92), save percentage (.936) and shutouts (9). Max Pacioretty’s 37 goals rank fourth overall and his plus-39 rating is the best in the NHL.

Backup Dustin Tokarski is 6-6-3 with a 2.81 GAA and .910 save percentage.

“They’re one of the top teams, an elite team [with] great goalies,” said Kinkaid. “I think we just have to stick our game plan and play a good, sound defensive game and capitalize on their mistakes."

One of the bright spots during the Devils’ six-game skid (0-4-2) has been a penalty kill that’s gone 11 for 13. It may be counted on against the Canadiens, who have four power-play goals on seven chances against the Devils and converted on all three opportunities the last time they met.

On the road, Montreal's power play ranks 29th (10.5%). There's one sure way to eliminate their attack with the man advantage.

“Stay out of the box," Kinkaid said. "They have a good power play. Obviously, we want to recover from the last game we played them up there. I think we’re looking forward to a good game."

Kinkaid, 5-5-3 this season, has excelled on home ice, posting a 4-1-2 mark with a 1.93 GAA and .933 save percentage. He hopes to add to that home wins total on Friday.

"I’ve had two shots at them already,” he said. "I’d like to get a win against them. That’d be good [against] a top team. I think it’ll be like a playoff game for us. Every game is a playoff game. We want to still make some noise in the League, finish strong and get off this little slide."

Stephen Gionta (lower body) missed a second straight day of practice and will not play Friday. He’s questionable for Saturday’s game versus the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"We’ll see how he is [Friday],” Devils’ President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said.

Gionta will be sidelined for the first time since missing 18 games from Dec. 31 to Feb. 14 with a broken hand.

• The Devils will host Fan Appreciation Day on Tuesday when the Rangers visit Prudential Center and close out the season with games Thursday at Tampa Bay and Saturday at Florida.

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