Rookie backup goaltender Carey Price has played well this season and appears to have a very bright future in the NHL. Getting starter Cristobal Huet back, though, should only make the Montreal Canadiens better.
Huet and the Canadiens look to win four straight road games for the first time in nearly two years on Saturday night when they face the Atlanta Thrashers for the second time this season.
Huet showed no adverse effects from a seven-game absence due to a groin pull, stopping 35 of 37 shots as Montreal opened a season-high six-game road trip Thursday with a 5-2 victory against Washington.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau was surprised that Huet was as sharp as he was after missing so much time.
"I was anticipating he was going to get tired at the end of the game, but he didn't," Carbonneau said. "His focus was really good. He was around the puck. He made the difference."
The 20-year-old Price started all seven games in Huet's absence and went 3-3-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average, allowing only seven goals in the last four appearances.
Huet figures to be back in net Saturday as the Canadiens (17-12-5) seek their fourth win in five games overall. Montreal hasn't won four in a row on the road since Feb. 9-March 4, 2006.
Huet is 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA in his last three starts against the Thrashers.
Guillaume Latendresse scored a pair of goals Thursday after he was benched in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Florida.
"Nobody is happy when they're sat out for a game," Latendresse said. "My mind-set was in the right place."
Latendresse is fourth on the team with nine goals, but his minus-5 rating is among the worst on the team.
"He has to play without the puck," Carbonneau said. "Sometimes guys decide to change their style, and that's never good for the team. I think tonight he came back with a good attitude."
Alex Kovalev set up a pair of scores Thursday, giving him two goals and five assists in his last six games. He has a team-best 14 goals in 34 games this season after he had 16 in 73 contests in 2006-07.
Atlanta (16-17-1) has built momentum with wins in its last two games, including a 3-2 victory Thursday over the Senators that ended Ottawa's six-game win streak.
Todd White scored a power-play goal 47 seconds into the third period, and Kari Lehtonen made 14 of his 28 saves in the third to win his second straight start.
"This was the game that I needed to come up big at the end when the game was on the line. That helps me," Lehtonen said.
Lehtonen is 4-2-0 with a 2.87 GAA in seven appearances since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him 16 games.
"That's two games in a row that he's risen to the challenge," coach Don Waddell said. "Certainly, those two games he's played extremely well, and we won both games."
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his league-leading 28th goal - his fourth in three contests.
Mark Recchi assisted on White's game-winner for his fifth point in five games since joining Atlanta.
The Thrashers won the first meeting this season with the Canadiens, 3-2 in a shootout on Oct. 30. Atlanta has won two straight against Montreal after losing the three previous meetings.