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At the Rink: Blackhawks at Canadiens

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- Joel Quenneville has his first opportunity to become the second-winningest coach in NHL history on Thursday when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH, RDS, SNE).

He is tied with Al Arbour with 782 wins, second only to Scotty Bowman's record of 1,244.

Quenneville has coached the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup wins in the past six seasons. He is 344-168-69 in 581 regular-season games with Chicago.

"It's happened quickly," said Quenneville, who signed a three-year contract extension Tuesday. "I've been very fortunate here in Chicago, we've had a lot of success. Great teams throughout my career, I've been around great players and great teams. I've been very fortunate here and the amazing part is how quickly it's gone by and how fast it seems like it's happened. I feel fortunate and excited as well."

The Blackhawks have won eight in a row to move within two points of the Dallas Stars for the Western Conference lead.

Chicago center Artem Anisimov is expected to be back in the lineup. Anisimov did not accompany his teammates to Montreal on Wednesday after missing the Blackhawks' 3-2 win against the Nashville Predators because of illness.

"He's flying in and he's playing [Thursday]," Quenneville said after the morning skate. "We expect him to play."

Defenseman Erik Gustavsson left the ice early and will not play because of a lower-body injury.

"I think we've had pretty even scoring," Chicago left wing Andrew Desjardins said. "We're getting some defensemen involved and everybody's been kind of producing a little bit more. We're not just running with one line doing most of the scoring. It's been an improved effort from everyone. When you can roll four lines and have a consistent effort from everybody, you're going to have success."

The Canadiens have split their past six games since losing 10 of 11 after getting off to a 19-4-3 start. Montreal has not won consecutive games since a four-game winning streak from Nov. 22-27.

"Certainly if we're going to get to where we want to get to we're not going to get there without being a team, and we're definitely dealing with a lot of adversity right now, maybe the most since I've been here," right wing Brendan Gallagher said after an optional morning skate at the Canadiens' suburban practice facility. "And for us to handle this appropriately is a challenge and it's a test for us. And we think we're saying all the right things, we think we're doing all the right things, it's just a matter of going out and executing it for a complete game."

Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry will return after he missed the 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday because of a lower-body injury.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien made some changes to his pairings, though he is concerned about not overusing veteran defenseman Andrei Markov, who is reunited with P.K. Subban.

"Most of the time they've got good chemistry and we decided to separate them for a period of time," Therrien said. "The number one reason was that we tried to cut down Andrei's ice time, and we decided this week to bring those two guys together, and obviously there's chemistry with those two, and we know that, but we can't forget it's a marathon and we need Andrei to have gas at the end."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew ShawJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Andrew DesjardinsPhillip DanaultTeuvo Teravainen

Richard PanikDennis RasmussenRyan Garbutt

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Michal RozsivalBrent Seabrook

Trevor van RiemsdykRob Scuderi

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Marcus Kruger (left wrist fracture), Erik Gustafsson (lower body)

Scratched: Bryan Bickell, Brandon Mashinter

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Sven Andrighetto

Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Paul Byron

Daniel Carr - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Flynn

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Nathan Beaulieu - Jeff Petry

Alexei Emelin - Mark Barberio

Mike Condon

Ben Scrivens

Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Dale Weise (upper body), Tom Gilbert (lower body)

Scratched: Devante Smith-Pelly, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi

Status report: Mashinter lined up with Danault and Desjardins at the morning skate, and Teravainen centered Panarin and Kane. Fleischmann returns after he was a healthy scratch for two games. Weise took part in the optional morning skate but will not play Thursday. Price and Gilbert worked out on the ice before the morning skate.

Who's hot: Toews has two goals and four assists during a three-game point streak. Kane has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his past eight games. Hossa and Shaw each have two goals and two assists in their past two games. Subban, who scored his first goal since Oct. 24 on Saturday, has five points in his past six games.

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