AVALANCHE (4-1-1) at CANADIENS (2-3-0)
Season Series -- This is the only meeting between the teams this season. On Feb. 13, Montreal earned a 4-2 win against Colorado in Denver thanks to a 46-save effort by backup goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Big Story -- The Canadiens become the last team to play its home opener, They went 2-3-0 on their season-opening five-game trip, ending with three consecutive losses in Western Canada. The Avs are flourishing under new coach Joe Sacco, earning 9 of a possible 12 points in their first six games. On Tuesday, Colorado marched into the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and cruised to a 4-1 victory in the fourth game of a seven-game trip.
Avalanche -- Craig Anderson has been everything Colorado was hoping for when it signed the free-agent goaltender to a two-year deal back in July. Anderson has been between the pipes for all four of the team's victories and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
Canadiens -- Just like the Avs, Montreal also has a new coach -- former Florida Panthers GM and bench boss Jacques Martin. Things haven't got as well for Martin -- Montreal won its first two games by beating Toronto and Buffalo in overtime before dropping games at Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton . The slide prompted Martins to practice his team hard on Tuesday in preparation for the home opener.
"Jacques is proving a point by working us through such an intense practice, but I also think he wants us to be in the best possible shape which is the way to go this early in the season," forward Mike Cammalleri said. "As long as guys are taking care of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with pumping up the old heart rate every now and then."
Who's Hot -- Wojtek Wolski has been splendid for the Avs, scoring 4 goals and adding 3 assists in six games. Milan Hejduk (2-4) and Kyle Quincey (1-5) have six points apiece. Three Canadiens have put up four points -- Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and defenseman Paul Mara. Veteran forward Brian Gionta has three goals in five contests.
Injury Report -- Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles is questionable aftesuffering a shoulder injury during Tuesday's win at Toronto. Colorado is already missing defensemen Tom Preissing (knee) and Ruslan Salei (back). Both are on injured reserve.
For Montreal, defenseman Andrei Markov (leg) is out until February, while Ryan O'Byrne (knee) is expected to miss at least another four weeks. Veteran forward Glen Metropolit (ribs) is day-to-day, but could play on Thursday night.
Stat Pack -- One of the many reasons why Colorado is off to such a tremendous start is its power play. The Avs have scored at least once with the man advantage in each of their first six games and are 10-for-26 overall.
Carey Price has posted a below-average .893 save percentage thus far for the Canadiens, while Mara is minus-3 in his last two games.
Puck Drop -- There will be some pressure on the Canadiens to their home opener in front of their passionate fans after a summer of change that brought in the likes of Cammalleri and Scott Gomez.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com