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Canadiens chase first home win as rival Leafs visit

by Brian Hunter
MAPLE LEAFS (4-1-1) at CANADIENS (1-4-1)


Season Series:
Second of six meetings this season between these Northeast Division rivals. When they met on opening night, a shorthanded goal by Matt Lombardi, insurance tally by Dion Phaneuf and 32 saves from James Reimer led the Maple Leafs to a 2-0 win over the Canadiens at Air Canada Centre. It was Reimer's fourth career shutout.

Big Story:
In recent years it's usually been Montreal battling for first place in the Northeast while Toronto resides in the division's basement, but through the initial two weeks of the 2011-12 season we're seeing a role reversal between these two great Original Six franchises. Particularly galling for Canadiens fans is they're still looking for their first win at Bell Centre after going 0-2-1 on an earlier homestand.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs:
While optimism abounds in Toronto, there's also reason for caution because the Maple Leafs also got off to a 4-0-1 start last season before faltering and missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season, and they also got to start this season with a five-game homestand. When they took to the road for the first time Thursday, the results weren't pretty. David Steckel's first goal as a Leaf opened the scoring, but the Bruins proceeded to put up a six-pack before Mikhail Grabovski had the final goal in a 6-2 defeat.

"We knew Boston was going to come out because of the way they lost the last game and we had a good start, but they got a couple of quick ones and our penalty kill hurt us tonight," defenseman Luke Schenn said. "We have a few more games on this road trip and we'll learn from our mistakes and move on. You're not going to win every game."

Ever since Montreal won the first two games of its first-round playoff series with Boston last spring, not a whole lot has gone right for the Canadiens. They dropped four of the next five and lost Game 7 to the Bruins in overtime, and they've opened this season by losing five of six, including four in a row entering Saturday. The offense has managed just two goals in as many games, and the Habs were on the verge of being blanked in Pittsburgh on Thursday before Mathieu Darche scored with 1:36 remaining.

"We're lacking some execution, and we seem to be squeezing the sticks a little bit," forward Mike Cammalleri said. "I'd like to see us stick-handle a bit, handle the puck a little bit and make some tape to tape passes. That's where it all starts, and we weren't really doing that."

Who's Hot:
Reimer, who the Maple Leafs rested for the first time against the Bruins, has a 2.55 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in five starts.

Injury Report: Toronto forward Clarke MacArthur is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Forwards Tim Connolly (upper body) and Colby Armstrong (ankle) are on injured reserve. … Montreal forward Scott Gomez is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek is expected to miss a couple weeks with an upper-body injury. Forward Ryan White (sports hernia) and defensemen Andrei Markov (knee) and Chris Campoli (leg) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: Maple Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri picked up an assist in 13 minutes of ice time in his season debut Thursday. Phil Kessel, who leads the NHL with 12 points, had his five-game points streak snapped by the team that drafted him with the fifth pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. … Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill played in his 1,000th career game against the Penguins.

Puck Drop: Life can get tough quick in Montreal when the team isn't winning, but goaltender Carey Price kept a positive outlook after his team's latest defeat.

"We can only get better from here. Dwelling on it is just going to make things worse, so the only thing we can do is put it behind us and get focused for Saturday night's game," said Price, who finished with 29 saves against Pittsburgh, including a highlight-reel diving stop in the first period. "We've had a couple of good games but it just seems like if one thing's going well, the other isn't. We just need to finally all throw it all together and once we do that I think we'll get on a roll, but until then we have to bear down on our details and everything should work out."

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