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Canadiens try to shut down Crosby and Penguins

by Mike Battaglino

PENGUINS (15-8-0) at CANADIENS (12-9-2)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 6-4-0; Montreal 4-4-2

Season series: This is the first of three games. The Pittsburgh Penguins won all three last season, in various fashion: 7-6 in overtime, 1-0, and 6-4.

Big story: The Montreal Canadiens take on the top team in the Metropolitan Division after defeating the second-place team, the Washington Capitals, 3-2 on Friday. It was the Canadiens' fifth win against a team currently above .500, and they will be trying for their fourth win against a team now ahead of them in the NHL standings.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Forward James Neal had two points in a 4-3 win against the New York Islanders on Friday, his second straight two-point game and third since returning from an upper-body injury on Nov. 13.

"When you take a little bit over a month off, it's tough," Neal told "NHL Tonight." "I'm starting to feel good and get my game legs back. When the team's winning, and getting in there, it feels good."

Pittsburgh used Jeff Zatkoff in goal against the Islanders, leaving Quebec native Marc-Andre Fleury to play here. He is 5-0-1 the past two seasons against Montreal, with 14 goals allowed, and the Penguins are 5-1-2 at Bell Centre under coach Dan Bylsma.

Canadiens: Forward David Desharnais scored his first goal of the season Friday, and has three points in his past two games after one in his first 19. On Nov. 10, Montreal mayor elect Denis Coderre tweeted a remark questioning whether Desharnais should be sent to the American Hockey League.

Desharnais is back on a line with Max Pacioretty and had two assists during his linemate's natural hat trick Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.

"We played together the last three four years, down in the minors and up here in Montreal," Desharnais told "NHL Tonight." "We were separated at the beginning of the year, we're just starting to get back on track together. We had great chemistry and hopefully we can keep it going."

After using Peter Budaj in goal against Alex Ovechkin, the Canadiens will call on Carey Price to face Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In the past two seasons, Price is 1-3-2 against Pittsburgh, with 20 goals allowed.

After losing five of six, Montreal has won three of four.

Who's hot: Malkin scored his first goal in a span of 15 games, extending a point streak to nine out of 10 (14 points). Crosby has five points in his past three games. … Canadiens forward Daniel Briere has four points in five games since returning from a concussion.

Injury report: Penguins forward Beau Bennett left the game Friday in the third period. Forward Chuck Kobasew (lower body) may return to practice in a few days. Defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle) is progressing but isn't projected to return until close to Christmas. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (hip) is out indefinitely. … Canadiens forward Michael Bournival was helped to the locker room after blocking a shot late in the third period Friday. Rene Bourque (lower body) missed his second straight game Friday. Defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is on injured reserve.

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