BLUES (5-1-0) at CANADIENS (6-0-0)
TV: FS-MW, RDS, CITYM
MONTREAL -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock agrees with Carey Price that the Montreal Canadiens are off to their best start in team history because they have a full roster making contributions in front of their stellar goalie.
St. Louis ends its season-high six-game road trip in Montreal on Tuesday riding a four-game winning streak. The Blues' 5-1-0 record leads the Western Conference and is second in the NHL to the Canadiens, who have opened with six straight wins to lead the League.
"I would say it all starts with the goalie, but I agree with Carey, they don't get enough credit for their depth," Hitchcock said after the morning skate at Bell Centre. "They're as deep as anybody. Between their defensemen now with the way they've got them aligned and their depth up front, in that third and fourth line they've really added a lot of players.
"If you look at it from really trade deadline on, they've added six forwards. That's a lot of players to add into your group. They've got a lot of identity and a lot of depth on every line. They're hard to play against."
Hitchcock said the Canadiens' fourth line of Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn and Devante Smith-Pelly consistently reaching double digits in minutes of ice time is a key to their success because it allows coach Michel Therrien to keep his first three lines fresh.
"That is where they do their damage," Hitchcock said. "They wear you out because none of their first three lines ever get tired because they don't have to get overextended during the game at all."
Montreal, which has scored five times in the first period, has yet to allow a first-period goal, and has outscored its opponents 10-1 in the third.
Although St. Louis began its trip with a 3-2 loss at the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 10, Hitchcock points to the Blues play in that game as the catalyst for the winning streak that has brought them to the top of the conference.
"I think that the way we played, even though we lost, in the second and third period gave us a lot of confidence that we can make the changes that we did in training camp and be effective," Hitchcock said. "I think the players gained confidence in playing with that balance between risk and safety. We started to amp up the risk a little bit and amp up some of the reckless play and became effective."
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has started with a six-game point streak and was named NHL Third Star of the Week on Monday.
Tarasenko, who is tied for the League lead with five goals and nine points, scored three goals and had three assists in four games, including a two-goal game in a 4-2 win at the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
"The quicker we can be on him, the less time and space he's going to have, and I think with a guy like him time and space is what you need to take away from to be as little a factor as possible," Canadiens left wing Lars Eller said. "Obviously, he's such a good player that you're probably not going to be able to take away everything from him, he's going to get chances here and there, but we're going to do our best to keep it to a minimum."
Price was named the League's First Star of the Week after going 3-0-0 with one shutout. The reigning Hart, Vezina and Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner had a 1.00 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage.
The Canadiens look to extend the best start in the team's illustrious history. They had six wins and one tie in their first seven games in 1961-62 and in 1977-78.
"Facing a team like the Blues, there should be plenty of motivation as a team to keep wanting more and taking another step, so I hope that's what we're going to see," Eller said.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - David Backes - Troy Brouwer
Dmitrij Jaskin - Scott Gomez - Scottie Upshall
Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body), Paul Stastny (lower body), Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Robby Fabbri (concussion)
Scratched: Chris Butler
Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Alexander Semin
Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise
Brian Flynn - Torrey Mitchell - Devante Smith-Pelly
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu - Tom Gilbert
Scratched: Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi, Paul Byron
Status report: Shattenkirk skated at practice for a third day in a row. There were no changes to the Blues lines or defense pairings. … Pateryn, Tinordi and Byron have yet to play and Therrien will use the same lines and defense pairs he has since the beginning of the season.
Who's hot: Gunnarsson has a goal and three assists in his past two games. Lehtera has two goals and three assists during his four-game point streak. … Price is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against-average and a .957 save percentage. Plekanec has scored five goals in his past five games to tie for the League lead.