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Canadiens hope getting back to basics helps offense

by James Murphy

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens aren't having a lot of trouble keeping the puck out of their net this season, as Carey Price has been stellar between the pipes and the team defense has helped hold opponents at bay.

The problem for the Canadiens lately has been they can't seem to find a way to get the puck in their opponent's net. Montreal is allowing 2.05 goals-against per game, which is third-best in the NHL entering games Tuesday. But it ranks 21st in goals-for with 2.43 per game, and has just three goals in its past three games.

Despite Price stopping 77 of the past 79 shots he's faced in his previous two starts, he lost both games and coach Michel Therrien decided it's time to switch up the forward lines in an attempt to spark his offense and hopefully ease the pressure on Price. The Canadiens welcome one of the hottest teams in the NHL to the Bell Centre on Tuesday in the Minnesota Wild, who are riding a four-game win streak and are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games.

"We're trying some different combinations and this is what coaching is all about. We try to find combinations and we work with players to help them be successful," Therrien said. "Those are guys that have played together in the past and we hope that we build that chemistry back for [Tuesday's] game."

Part of finding that chemistry again, and finding the back of the net, will be going back to basics and essentially playing a road game at home, where the Habs are 5-5-2, as opposed to their 5-4-0 record away from Bell Centre. Forward Brandon Prust, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing the previous 11 games, believes he and his teammates must harness that road mentality at home to start scoring and winning again.

"I think subconsciously teams on the road will play a different game and keep it simple and not try and impress your fans with some nice plays," Prust said. "I think we've had a lot of turnovers at the blue line and that's from trying to make plays and be fancy. We just need to play our game and that's chipping pucks, working hard and getting down low on the forecheck. That's one of our best attributes as a team, working [defensemen] down low, and we need to get back to that. We want to feed off the fans and the energy being at home but don't try and be too fancy. We need to keep it simple and good things will happen."

Therrien agreed with Prust's assessment but took it a step further.

"We want to play the right way whether we're on the road or at home," Therrien said. "We need to play the right way and we believe by playing the right way that means playing well when we have the puck [and] playing really well when we don't have the puck. It can be dangerous when guys start to struggle and we don't want them to cheat. We don't want to give up odd-man rushes because we all know if we start cheating and try to score more goals, it could turn against you. We're focusing about playing the right way."

The Canadiens will have their work cut out for them, though, as they try to find their way against the Wild and more specifically trying to score on goaltender Josh Harding, who was named one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Harding is second in the NHL with a 1.25 GAA and in save percentage at .946.

Prust knows the Canadiens must do whatever they can to make life difficult for a goalie in the zone like Harding.

"He's playing really well for them," Prust said of Harding. "It doesn't matter what goalie, but especially those goalies that are feeling it, that's huge. That's our game plan and something we want to do, go to the net, throw pucks there and get in his face."

Here's what the lineups could look like Tuesday:


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Justin Fontaine - Kyle Brodziak - Matt Cooke

John Mitchell - Zenon Konopka - Dany Heatley

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Josh Harding

Johan Gustafsson

Scratched: Mathew Dumba

Injured: Keith Ballard (upper body), Niklas Backstrom (upper body), Mike Rupp (lower body)


Rene BourqueTomas PlekanecBrian Gionta

Alex GalchenyukLars EllerBrandon Prust

Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisBrendan Gallagher

Michael BournivalDaniel BriereTravis Moen

Andrei MarkovP.K. Subban

Josh GorgesAlexei Emelin

Franci Bouillon – Raphael Diaz

Carey Price

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Ryan White, George Parros, Douglas Murray

Injured: Davis Drewiske (shoulder)

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