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Canadiens prepare for big challenge in Sharks

by Arpon Basu /

SHARKS (8-1-1) at CANADIENS (6-4-0)


Season series: The Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks have not met since Dec. 1, 2011, and this will be San Jose's first visit to Montreal since Dec. 4, 2010. The Sharks won the last meeting 4-3 in a shootout.

Big story: The Sharks are coming off their first regulation loss of the season, a game in which the Boston Bruins scored with 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation to win 2-1 despite getting outshot 39-17 in their own building. That doesn't happen to the Bruins very often. So despite the loss, the Sharks are still really good at hockey.

Team Scope:

Sharks: It would be hard for any reasonable person to poke holes in the Sharks right now considering how they lost in Boston. Tuukka Rask stopped 38 of 39 shots as the Sharks buzzed in the Bruins' zone most of the game, without success.

Considering it was San Jose's first regulation loss of the season one might expect Sharks coach Todd McLellan to take the loss in stride.

But he didn't.

"It's unacceptable that we can't at least close that out," McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News after the game. "We have to be disappointed as a group. We can't leave here saying the 'hockey gods' or 'we could have or should have' because 'could have' and 'should have' never won any games."

The one area that might be of some legitimate concern for McLellan is that the offense has produced just one goal in two games, with a 1-0 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings preceding the loss in Boston. The Sharks hadn't scored fewer than three goals in any game before facing the Red Wings.

Canadiens: While the Sharks are trying to recover from their first loss, the Canadiens are preparing for what coach Michel Therrien called his team's "biggest challenge of the season."

"In my eyes they are the best team in the League so far," Therrien said after practice Friday. "You look at their goal differential; they do a lot of good things. They pressure the puck, they go to the net, they have a good goalie."

The Canadiens also did some good things in their 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, most of which were triggered by the line of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and rookie Michael Bournival, who has become the early-season revelation for the team.

With injuries to Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere creating open spots among Montreal's top-nine forwards, Bournival has pounced on the opportunity to play important minutes with five points during a four-game point streak.

Who’s hot: Patrick Marleau has scored in all but two of San Jose's games this season. … For the Canadiens, in addition to Bournival's production, Plekanec has seven points in four games and Gionta has four points in four games.

Injury report: The Sharks could be without forward Tommy Wingels, who left the game in Boston in the first period after taking a hit from Zdeno Chara. They will be missing defenseman Dan Boyle and forwards Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish. … The Canadiens will be without forwards Briere (concussion), Brandon Prust (shoulder), Pacioretty (hamstring) and George Parros (concussion) and defensemen Alexei Emelin (knee), Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and Douglas Murray (upper body). Murray and Parros have begun practicing with the team, but neither is ready to return.

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