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Canadiens-Flames Preview

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (21-16-6) at Calgary Flames (26-14-5).

TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.

The Montreal Canadiens seem to be regaining their early-season form with Bob Gainey as coach. They'll need to be at the top of their game over the next 10 days.

The Canadiens, who are 2-0 under Gainey, open a daunting six-game road trip as they visit the Calgary Flames.

After facing the Flames, Montreal will travel to Vancouver, Carolina, Philadelphia, Ottawa, and Toronto between now and Jan. 28. Of the six opponents, five are either division leaders or tied for their division lead. The six clubs are a combined 97-28-12 at home.

"We're hot, and it's good that we are," said Gainey.

Montreal opened the season 12-3-1, then won only seven of its next 25 games, leading general manager Gainey to fire coach Claude Julien last Saturday. Gainey will be interim coach for the rest of the season.

The Canadiens are 7-for-12 on the power play in Gainey's two games as coach. They scored on their first three opportunities with the man advantage in Monday night's 4-2 victory over Dallas.

Mike Ribeiro has three power-play goals in the last two games, including two on Monday. He had scored just once in 29 games before Gainey took over.

"The power play is just moving the puck, and when we get our chances we're scoring right now," Ribeiro said.

The Flames return home, where they have won four straight games, after a 1-2-1 road trip. Calgary salvaged its lone win Saturday, 4-1 win over Minnesota.

Jarome Iginla snapped a 1-1 tie with a goal at 1:17 of the third period. Kristian Huselius added an insurance goal six minutes later, and Tony Amonte finished the scoring with an empty-netter.

"The third period was probably the best we've played in a long time," Iginla said. "It was a very big game for us as far as momentum. We all knew the importance of it."

Calgary is 8-1-2 against other teams from Canada this season. The home team has won each of the last three meetings between the Flames and Canadiens.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 48 points, 4th place, 17 PB, Northeast Division. Flames - 57 points, 1st place (tied), Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 19 goals; Andrei Markov, 23 assists; Saku Koivu, 32 points; Steve Begin, 93 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 19 goals and 35 points; Daymond Langkow and Andrew Ference, 18 assists; Darren McCarty, 71 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 19.1 percent (49 for 256), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (221 for 270), 17th. Flames - Power play: 16.7 percent (45 for 269), 19th. Penalty killing: 81.7 percent (228 for 279), 18th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Jose Theodore (16-11-5, 0 SO, 3.15 GAA); Cristobal Huet (2-3-1, 0, 2.97). Flames - Miikka Kiprusoff (23-12-5, 6, 2.32); Philippe Sauve (3-2-0, 0, 2.62).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Tied 1-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 19, 2004; Canadiens, 4-1. At Montreal, Pierre Dagenais scored two goals, and Mathieu Garon stopped 19 of 20 shots for the Canadiens.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 7-10-4 on the road; Flames - 16-4-2 at home.

Associated Press

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