GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (19-16-3-2) at Montreal Canadiens (17-15-5-2).
TIME: Saturday, 2 p.m. EST.
The Montreal Canadiens are coming off a road trip in which they won only
once. The Atlanta Thrashers just opened theirs with a loss.
Neither team sounds too unhappy.
The Canadiens return home looking to revive their offense and the Thrashers
try to snap a three-game losing streak as the teams meet at the Bell Centre.
Montreal scored only six goals in going 1-1-1-1 on its trip, though it ended
with Niklas Sundstrom scoring with one minute left in regulation to forge a 1-1
tie Wednesday in Dallas.
"It was an important game for us," Montreal coach Claude Julien said.
"When you score in the last minute, it gives you confidence and it gave us a
precious point. It's a great way to build. There are a lot of regular ties
during a season, but this is a really good tie the way we did it."
While goals were hard to come by on the road trip, Montreal scored nine
times in winning its last two games at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens have lost
just one of their last seven at home (4-1-2).
The Thrashers started a five-game road trip Wednesday with a 6-5 overtime
loss at Detroit, the only team in the NHL to have scored more goals than them
Atlanta came back from two goals down to tie the game in the second period
and a 5-4 deficit in the third to force overtime against the Central
Division-leading Red Wings.
"I don't think it was our best game," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.
"But we kept coming back."
Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists for Atlanta, which also got goals
from Slava Kozlov, Ronald Petrovicky, Zdenek Blatny and Daniel Tjarnqvist.
"Pretty exciting game," Kozlov said. "It was a big point for us to come
Pasi Nurminen is hoping 2004 treats him better than the final month of 2003.
Atlanta's top goalie went 3-6-0 with a 3.66 goals-against average in December.
Conversely, Montreal netminder Jose Theodore is coming off his best month of
the season, having gone 6-3-3 with a 1.75 GAA and .938 save percentage.