MAPLE LEAFS (23-29-4) at CANADIENS (35-15-4)
TV: CBC, NHLN-US, TVA
MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust is well aware of the turmoil surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs these days, but he says his team has enough on its plate to deal with at the moment.
Saturday, Toronto is at Bell Centre to face Montreal for the first time since Oct. 8, when the Canadiens won the season opener against the Maple Leafs, 4-3 at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto has lost 21 of its past 25 games since starting 19-9-3.
Growing up in London, Ontario, Prust was a keen consumer of the media scrutiny that follows the Maple Leafs everywhere they go.
"I think they're definitely going through a rough time right now, and being in Canada, you see it all," Prust said. "I was a Leafs fan growing up, so I saw it all. We're not really worried about other teams right now, we've got to worry about ourselves."
While Toronto is plummeting out of the race for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montreal is in first place in the Eastern Conference despite struggling against teams near the bottom of the NHL standings.
The Canadiens' blew a lead to the Edmonton Oilers late in the third period Thursday before losing 4-3 in overtime. Montreal, which began February with losses to the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres, is 4-4-2 against the bottom five teams in the League.
"We didn't play very well last game so we want to accomplish a lot more, better puck management," Prust said. "We had a lot of turnovers last game, we were sloppy, trying to do too much. We know our game we have to play to win and to be successful, the game when we're at our best, when we're playing top teams and we keep our game simple. We get pucks out, we win puck battles on the walls, that's when we're at our best. And we've got to learn that's how we're going to win a Stanley Cup, so we've got to continue to do that every night."
Canadiens goalie Carey Price will start after he was rested Thursday. He has won eight of his past nine starts.
"Montreal's always a tough team to play against," Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said. "We usually come in here and have a pretty good effort, but it's a good team. They obviously have a great goalie back there, so we're going to have to do a lot of things right and not make many mistakes."
Toronto lost its second in a row Thursday, a 3-2 loss at the New York Islanders that extended its road losing streak to 12. The Maple Leafs, who have yet to win a road game in 2015, are 0-11-1 on the road since a 4-3 shootout win at the Boston Bruins on Dec. 31.
"We're going to play right to Game 82 and try to get as many wins as we can, as many points as we can," Kadri said. "We're definitely not going to quit. We're going to show some passion and some pride and try to do it for each other."
Maple Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek faces a challenge in matching lines against Montreal centers Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais.
"Both those lines that they center are very good lines," Horachek said. "They're very skilled, and they rely heavily on those lines, they play in all situations. We're going to need our centermen to be strong tonight, because those guys are very strong up the middle and very skilled. It's a real challenge. They're going to have last change and have the ability to match the way they want, so we're going to have to use multiple lines against them and everyone's going to have to be at their best."
Here are the projected lineups:
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Richard Panik
Leo Komarov – Peter Holland – Mike Santorelli
David Booth – Trevor Smith – David Clarkson
Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Korbinian Holzer – Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Petter Granberg
Injured: Joffrey Lupul (lower body), Dion Phaneuf (upper body)
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Dale Weise
Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Lars Eller - Jacob De La Rose – Brandon Prust
Michael Bournival - Manny Malhotra – Christian Thomas
Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu – Sergei Gonchar
Alexei Emelin – Mike Weaver
Scratched: Tom Gilbert, Jiri Sekac
Injured: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (concussion)
Status report: The Maple Leafs' morning skate at Bell Centre and Montreal's at its suburban practice facility were optional. Weaver and Malhotra will play for the first time since Feb. 1. Weaver has played twice in the previous 25 games.
Who's hot: Panik had a goal and an assist Thursday. He has three points in his past three games after going without a point in his previous 14 games. Rielly has scored three of his seven goals in the past three games. ... Price is 16-3-1 in his past 20 starts. Markov has a four-game points streak (two goals, three assists). Subban has five assists in his past five games.