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Canadiens-Thrashers Preview

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Canadiens-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (17-10-6) at Atlanta Thrashers (15-16-5).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

As the Montreal Canadiens end the year with a five-game road trip, they are approaching a record they would rather not surpass.

Montreal will try to avoid its ninth straight road loss when they meet the resurgent Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena.

The Canadiens dropped their eighth in a row away from the Bell Centre with a 4-2 defeat to the Washington Capitals on Friday. Rookie backup goaltender Cristobal Huet, playing his third straight game in place of the injured Jose Theodore (knee), gave up all four goals on just 11 shots faced in the third period.

Montreal has been outscored 32-16 and gone 4-for-37 on the power play during the road skid, its longest since a nine-game slide from Feb. 27-April 1, 1995.

Should the Canadiens fall in Atlanta, they would be in position to match the longest road losing streak in franchise history on Wednesday when they meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Canadiens lost 10 straight on the road from Jan. 16-March 13, 1926.

Atlanta, meanwhile, hopes rookie goaltender Michael Garnett can build off his first career shutout. Garnett made 29 saves and Czech Olympic selection Marian Hossa scored the lone goal Friday in Atlanta's 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Garnett was expected to play in the minor leagues this season while highly touted Kari Lehtonen and veteran Mike Dunham handled goaltending chores for the Thrashers. Groin injuries to both forced Garnett into a starting role.

He's made 14 straight starts for Atlanta, which has won five of its last seven games. The two losses came in shootouts.

"The defense has really picked it up lately," Garnett said. "Our discipline is better. We're not taking stupid penalties. We're heading in the right direction."

After the first month of the season, Atlanta was 4-9-1, including a four-game losing streak in which it was outscored 22-2.

Since beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0 on Nov. 9, the Thrashers have gone a respectable 11-7-4, outscoring the opposition 82-72.

Atlanta is expected to have leading goal scorer and Russian Olympic team selection Ilya Kovalchuk back in the lineup after he served a one-game suspension for throwing his stick into the stands during a 6-5 shootout loss Thursday to Washington.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 40 points, 3rd place, 11 PB, Northeast Division. Thrashers - 35 points, 3rd place, 13 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 16 goals; Saku Koivu, 19 assists and 27 points; Steve Begin, 83 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 22 goals; Marc Savard, 33 assists and 48 points; Andy Sutton, 62 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 18.5 percent (39 for 211), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (178 for 220), 24th. Thrashers - Power play: 20.9 percent (53 for 234), 4th. Penalty killing: 78.8 percent (186 for 236), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (13-7-5, 0 SO, 3.06 GAA); Huet (1-1-1, 3.55). Thrashers - Garnett (8-7-3, 1, 3.57); Adam Berkhoel (2-4-0, 4.08).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 22; Canadiens, 3-2, SO. At Montreal, Theodore stopped Kovalchuk, Peter Bondra and Hossa while Pierre Dagenais scored for the Canadiens in the shootout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 6-5-4 on the road; Thrashers - 8-7-3 at home.


Associated Press
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