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Canadiens brace for challenge against Blues

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com

BLUES (12-5-1) at CANADIENS (14-5-1)

TV: FS-MW, RDS, CITYM

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens face another stiff test Thursday when they play the St. Louis Blues at Bell Centre.

Montreal has a 14-5-1 record and the most points in the NHL with 29 despite a 4-0 loss Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the Metropolitan Division.

St. Louis, which has won 10 of 12, is second in the Central Division at 12-5-1 and 25 points.

"They're a big strong physical team and they're good in the faceoff dot which means that they start with the puck a lot," said Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty, who is celebrating his 26th birthday Thursday. "But it looks like our team's been doing well in faceoffs this year and I think that might be a big factor in a game against a team like this. If we let them start with the puck every time and they're a big strong team, it's tough to get it back from them so we've got to find a way to help our centermen win draws and then win those battles for loose pucks."

The Blues have been shut out in three of seven road games this season, including Tuesday in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins. St. Louis is 4-2-1 on the road.

Forward Magnus Paajarvi, who was a healthy scratch the past three games, will play for the second time in seven games in place of Joakim Lindstrom on the right side of center Paul Stastny and left wing Alexander Steen.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Chris Porter will get a chance to play in that spot either Saturday at the Ottawa Senators or Sunday when St. Louis completes its four-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets.

Hitchcock will continue to platoon players in and out of that spot until someone forces him to keep him there. He said Paajarvi is really focused on using his excellent conditioning to his advantage in practice and starting to "play through people."

"We're not really settled on some of those guys because nobody's really grabbed certain spots, and we're looking for somebody to grab it," Hitchcock said. "Magnus has really put the effort in to move up to the next level, so I think we're excited to really take a look at him."

Blues goalie Jake Allen, who played his major junior hockey in Montreal, makes his first start against the Canadiens. He has won each of his starts on the road with a 0.50 goals-against average and a .980 save percentage in those games. The native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, has 18-19 family and friends here, including his parents, Kurt and Susie, who will see him start an NHL game for the first time, and his brother and sister Jordan and Taylor.

Allen's grandmother, Judy Banks, will attend her first NHL game.

Allen said his mother was in St. Louis at the start of the season, but he didn't start either of the Blues' first two games. His parents will also see the Blues in Ottawa on Saturday.

"They figured two games, hopefully I'd get one of them," Allen said.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Patrik BerglundDavid BackesT.J. Oshie

Alexander SteenPaul StastnyMagnus Paajarvi

Jaden SchwartzJori LehteraVladimir Tarasenko

Steve OttMaxim LapierreRyan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Carl GunnarssonKevin Shattenkirk

Barret JackmanIan Cole

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Chris Butler, Chris Porter, Joakim Lindstrom

Injured: None

CANADIENS

Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisPierre-Alexandre Parenteau

Alex GalchenyukTomas PlekanecBrendan Gallagher

Brandon PrustLars EllerJiri Sekac

Manny MalhotraDale Weise

Andrei MarkovP.K. Subban

Alexei EmelinSergei Gonchar

Nathan BeaulieuTom Gilbert

Mike Weaver

Carey Price

Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: Drayson Bowman

Injured: Michael Bournival (shoulder)

Status report: Lindstrom had played 17 of 18 games. He had two goals in nine games since Oct. 30, when he was left out of the lineup for a 2-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks. ... Weaver took part in the morning skate after an upper-body injury kept him out of the lineup Tuesday. He is a game-time decision.

Who's hot: Lehtera has five goals and 11 points in his past eight games; Schwartz has two goals and 10 points in his past six games. Schwartz, Tarasenko and Lehtera have scored 10 of the Blues' 14 goals in seven road games. ... Pacioretty has three goals and seven points in his past six games.

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