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Cammalleri-less Habs host road-warrior Canucks

by Magalie Lafreni?re
CANUCKS (34-18-2) at CANADIENS (25-25-6)

Last 10:
Vancouver 7-2-1; Montreal 3-4-3

Season series: This is the second and final meeting between the two teams. The Canadian clubs met on Oct. 7 and the Canucks rolled to a 7-1 victory. Henrik Sedin had a pair of goals, while Montreal native Roberto Luongo made 27 saves.

Big story: In October, the Canadiens lost their top defenseman Andrei Markov to injury. Perhaps it was an omen of bad things to come, of a season full of goaltending controversies and injuries.

The latest blow to the legendary franchise was their leading goal scorer's knee. Slews of Montreal fans were swearing in unison with GM Bob Gainey, as Mike Cammalleri awkwardly went into the boards following a hit by Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov. Reports say that the left wing is out 6-8 weeks with a MCL tear, but that he won't require surgery.

The injury reduces the formally explosive first line to just Tomas Plekanec, as Andrei Kostitysn, who completed the trio, is also out with a knee injury. And while it's hard to draw anything positive from this latest blow, the two-week Olympic break will be the Habs' saving grace, as perhaps it will give Cammalleri the time he needs to get back on the ice for the final stretch.

Team Scope:

Canucks: On top of the Northwest Division with a four-point lead, the Canucks are just one game into a 14-game road trip that will be the determining factor in how they finish the season. But they started off well on Saturday, or at least finished the game well with a 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs had a 3-0 lead after the first period and chased Luongo from the crease. But Vancouver rallied with five answered goals for the win. Alexandre Burrows had two goals and two assists, Daniel Sedin finished with two goals and an assist and Henrik Sedin added a goal and an assist.

"Our big line stood up and took control of the game," said former Toronto goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief of Luongo.

Canadiens: For a little over 12 hours the Canadiens held the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the point they grabbed in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators on Saturday. Having been passed by Florida and the Rangers on Sunday, the Habs now sit now in 10th with 56 points.

Trailing 2-0 in the second, Benoit Pouliot scored a power-play goal to make it a one-goal game, while Brian Gionta also connected on the power play with 2:45 left in the third to force the extra period. Ottawa solved Montreal in overtime with a Mike Fisher backhand during 3-on-3 play. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves, but British Columbia native Carey Price could get the start on Tuesday.

"It's disappointing, for sure," Pouliot said. "You can't fall behind by one or two at the start of every game and expect to come back all the time, that's tough. We showed some character and we come back to tie it 2-2 at the end of the period. The power play did well and it's just too bad that we couldn't get a second point."

Who's hot: Plekanec had a pair of helpers on Saturday and was named the third star of the game, while Pouliot continues to turn heads with his goal-scoring abilities as a Canadien.

Henrik Sedin leads the League in points and has 14 in his last seven games. Mason Raymond has had five points in his last three games, while Burrows' point production has been almost unstoppable.

Injury report:  As noted, Cammalleri will join his linemate Andrei Kostitsyn in the infirmary with their respective knee injuries. Forward Matt D'Agostini, who was called up in the wake of Cammalleri's injury, missed Monday's practice with the flu. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek has recovered from his flu bug, but is questionable for Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury, while defenseman Paul Mara is also out with an upper-body injury.

Canucks defenseman Sami Salo (groin) practiced on Monday and is expected to make his return against the Canadiens, while fellow defensemen Willie Mitchell (concussion) and Kevin Bieksa (left ankle tendon surgery) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
A year ago Feb. 1, the Canadiens lost their then current leading scorer, Robert Lang, to injury. While Lang had just 18 goals to Cammalleri's 26, it was a crippling blow to their season, and not a calamity Montreal hopes to see on a yearly basis.

Puck drop:
"I do believe there's a lot of character, and our guys never quit. We just push and work, push and work. And we got it done." -- Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.

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