DETROIT -- When the Montreal Canadiens play the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Monday night, it will be a game between two of the top teams in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference and two Original Six teams.
Montreal (36-15-4) is first in the Atlantic Division, four points ahead of third-place Detroit (31-13-10). The Canadiens are also the top team in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the New York Islanders. The Red Wings have the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
"It always means a lot when we face off against Montreal," Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "They're usually great games and they've got a great team, and it's always a great atmosphere. So it makes for a great game.
"Tampa, Montreal and us, we're bunched right there together and it seems like whenever we lose they win. So it's crucial for us to find a way to get some points tonight."
The Canadiens have beaten the Red Wings four consecutive games, including two this season.
"We know that every game we've played them this season has been a tough game," Montreal right wing Brendan Gallagher said.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke about the dynamics that make the Canadiens successful.
"They really trust their goaltender (Carey Price). They got two 'D' that really generate offense (P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov). Their power play and penalty killing are good. They got good, explosive forwards," he said. "They're not worried about getting outshot or spending too much time in their zone. Probably the media worries about that more than they do."
Price leads the NHL with a .934 save percentage and is second in wins (31) and goals-against average (1.98).
"He's a star," Babcock said. "His save percentage is .934. He's soft; when (the puck) hits him it sticks to him. He plays the puck great. He seems to be very composed. He's a great kid. We got to go get him tonight."
The Canadiens know the Red Wings will be good defensively, but that's not their only concern.
"They've got some talented offensive players up front that can hurt you," Gallagher said.
Four players have at least 40 points: Henrik Zetterberg (49), Pavel Datsyuk (42), Tomas Tatar (41) and Gustav Nyquist (40). Two have at least 20 goals: Tatar (23) and Nyquist (20).
"They have some dynamic players and have world-class talent," Subban said. "They can put the puck in the net."
Forward Max Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 25 goals and 46 points, played collegiately at the University of Michigan.
"They're a puck possession team. They'd rather skate it in than dump it in," Pacioretty said. "We don't want to get into a run-and-gun game with them. We try to grind teams down.”
Detroit has the No. 1 power play in the NHL at 26.3 percent.
"They've got a lot of skill," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "They make plays and have a good net-front presence. So it's going to be a challenge for us."
Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser returned the compliment.
"They're a great team," he said. "They're really quick and have lots of skill. They have guys that can put the puck in the net. It's going to be a good test for us.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Dale Weise
Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Brandon Prust - Jacob De La Rose - Lars Eller
Michael Bournival - Manny Malhotra - Christian Thomas
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu - Alexei Emelin
Mike Weaver - Tom Gilbert
Scratched: Jiri Sekac
Injured: PA Parenteau (concussion), Sergei Gonchar (upper body)
Tomas Tatar - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader
Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Gustav Nyquist
Luke Glendening - Riley Sheahan - Drew Miller
Stephen Weiss - Joakim Andersson - Tomas Jurco
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith - Alexey Marchenko
Injured: Johan Franzen (concussion).
Status report: Tatar moves up to left wing on the first line from right wing on the second line. Nyquist moves down from first-line left wing to second-line right wing.
Who's hot: Subban had an assist and three shots in 35:21 of ice time in the 2-1 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a career high in minutes for Subban and the most in the NHL this season. Datsyuk had two goals and an assist in the 5-4 shootout loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.