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Canadiens open tough weekend vs. Penguins

by Arpon Basu

PENGUINS (13-8-0) at CANADIENS (13-4-3)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 5-5-0; Montreal 7-1-2

Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the clubs.

Big story: The Penguins are playing their fourth game since star center Evgeni Malkin went down with a concussion, and have lost their last two.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Malkin appears to be on the road to recovery, as he has been skating on his own while the Penguins are on the road with no recurrence of symptoms, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Sidney Crosby has done his best to pick up the slack in his absence, scoring twice and adding four assists on the 10 goals Pittsburgh has scored in the three games Malkin has missed. But offense has been less of a problem then defense and goaltending, as the Penguins have allowed 13 goals in their past three games.

Coach Dan Bylsma has an interesting decision to make it goal between the struggling Tomas Vokoun or Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a career .889 save percentage and 3.25 goals against average in 24 starts against Montreal.

Canadiens: This will be Montreal's only home game during a stretch of seven out of eight on the road, with five straight away from Bell Centre to come -- including a Sunday night visit to Boston, meaning that the Canadiens will be facing two of the Eastern Conference's top teams in a span of 24 hours.

Injuries have also start to hit the Canadiens, with both Rene Bourque and Raphael Diaz going down with concussions; both have played far higher than expectation this season. In a nutshell, if anyone wanted to know if the Canadiens were for real, this will be the week we find out.

Who's hot: Aside from Crosby, the Penguins have been receiving outstanding play from defenseman Paul Martin, who has three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Chris Kunitz has failed to get at least a point in only five games this season. … For the Canadiens Max Pacioretty has six goals and four assists in his last seven games, and his center David Desharnais has a goal and six assists over the same span.

Injury report: Aside from Malkin, the Penguins have no listed injuries…The Canadiens are missing Diaz and Bourque, but Petteri Nokelainen (lower body) practiced with his teammates for the first time this season Friday, so he may be on his way back.

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