CANADIENS (6-6-0) at BLACKHAWKS (7-4-1)
Last 10 --
Canadiens 4-6-0; Blackhawks 6-4-0
Season series --
This will be the only meeting of the season for Montreal and Chicago. The Habs took their lone matchup last season with the Hawks, 4-1, on March 31.
Big story --
Both teams will look to rebound from mid-week losses in the latest renewal of an Original Six rivalry.
Montreal is coming to Chicago in search of some relief after watching its four-game winning streak disappear in painful fashion Wednesday. The Canadiens spent their last outing on the business end of a 6-1 trouncing by the Penguins, powered by a Sidney Crosby hat trick. The rough outing may signal the end of a run of action for Jaroslav Halak. While Halak is supposedly the backup to netminder Carey Price
, the Slovak has started the Habs' last five games, but the loss to Pittsburgh has reportedly opened the door for Price to make his return to the net.
Halak isn't the only Canadien to experience consequences in the fallout from Wednesday. After a very intense practice Thursday, coach Jacques Martin is expected to drop Michael Cammalleri
from the top line, where he will be replaced by Andrei Kostitsyn
. It appears Martin, clearly unhappy with a lackluster performance in the team's last outing, is expecting the shakeup to produce a different result at the United Center.
Like the Canadiens, the Hawks are also looking to turn around their fortunes. After a strong start to the season, Chicago has seemed average at best over the past two weeks, going 2-3 in its last five games -- a stretch that included a four-game homestand. The Hawks struggled in their last outing, a 2-0 loss to Pekka Rinne and the Predators, but Brent Seabrook
played for the first time since leaving a loss to the Canucks on Oct. 21 with concussion-like symptoms.
The Hawks got more good news this week, as Marian Hossa
skated for the first time this season, but he is still a few weeks from making his return to the ice. Chicago remains without captain Jonathan Toews
, who has also not played since the loss to Vancouver. Regardless, Chicago is not playing as well as coach Joel Quenneville would probably like as the month winds down. A win against the Habs could get the Hawks back on track.
Who's hot -- Tomas Plekanec
was responsible for Montreal's lone tally against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, which was more of the same for the Czech center. The goal gave Plekanec a four-game point streak. Before the Hawks were blanked in Nashville Thursday, Chicago's Troy Brouwer had scored in three of the previous four games.
Injury report --
Seabrook's return to the lineup is a boost for Chicago's blue line, but Toews is still questionable with an upper-body injury. Montreal will still be missing Andrei Markov
and Ryan O'Byrne, who are both out for an extended period.
Stat pack --
With the Habs sitting at .500 so far this season, it looks like lighting the lamp first might be the key. Montreal is 5-1 when scoring the first goal this season, the fifth-best mark in the League, but hasn't yet shown the ability to rally, going just 1-5 when giving up the opening tally.
Puck drop --
This will be the final game for Chicago in October, a month in which the team spent most of its time at home. November will be a different story, with the Blackhawks playing eight of 12 on the road. One win over Montreal would be a nice sendoff for Chicago, but it won't come easy. Despite their loss to Pittsburgh, the Canadiens still come to the Windy City having performed well in recent weeks. And with Carey Price
expected to be back in net, Chicago may be facing a netminder with something to prove.
-- Dave Kalan, NHL.com