The Montreal Canadiens haven't embarked on a six-game road trip in nearly two years. Given their struggles at home lately, they may not be in a hurry to return.
Montreal (16-12-5) begins its longest road trip of the season on Thursday night at the Verizon Center against the Washington Capitals.
The Canadiens have been one of the NHL's best road teams in 2007-08 with a 10-5-1 record, second only to Northeast Division-leading Ottawa in the Eastern Conference. Montreal, though, has gone 1-5-2 at the Bell Centre after starting the season 5-2-2 there.
This will be the Canadiens' first six-game road swing since going 4-1-1 from Feb. 28-March 9, 2006. Montreal will not return home until Jan. 3 against Tampa Bay.
Montreal's frustrations at home apparently boiled over in a 3-2 loss to Florida on Tuesday when Saku Koivu received 15 minutes in penalties for cross-checking the Panthers' Jozef Stumpel as time expired.
"What was the call? I don't know, for what?" Koivu said when informed of the penalties.
Coach Guy Carbonneau also didn't know why Koivu was assessed a cross-checking major and game misconduct.
"We tried to look at it on the video but we couldn't see it, the camera moved away," he said. "I don't know what happened."
Koivu assisted on Andrei Markov's second goal on Tuesday. The Canadiens captain has four assists in his last two games against the Capitals, both in Montreal. Koivu also has points in four of his last five visits to Washington.
A game against the Capitals (13-18-3), who have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference with 29, could be just what the Canadiens need. Montreal has won five of the last six meetings.
But the Capitals have played some of their best hockey of the season recently, going 4-1-1 in their last six. Washington's most impressive game during that span may have been their most recent, a 4-3 shootout loss on Monday at league-leading Detroit.
"I don't look at a shootout loss as a loss anyway," Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig, who had 27 saves, told the team's official Web site."I look at it as a tie.
"We can make a real statement by winning Thursday and Saturday and feeling good about ourselves going into the break."
Kolzig is 8-7-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average in his career at home against Montreal.
Alexander Ovechkin had a goal against the Red Wings and the leads the Washington with 24 goals. But other than Ovechkin, Washington has struggled to score. Defenseman Mike Green is second on the team with eight goals, and center Michael Nylander has seven.
Ovechkin has two goals and six assists in eight career games against Montreal, though he hasn't registered a point in his past two against the Canadiens.