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Canadiens visit Kings to start big road trip

by Brian Compton

CANADIENS (34-21-7) at KINGS (34-22-6)


Last 10: Montreal 7-1-2; Los Angeles 5-5-0

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings. The Kings cruised to a 6-0 victory at Bell Centre on Dec. 10. Martin Jones stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout.

Big story: It's the first of a huge four-game road trip for the Canadiens, who are aiming to catch the Boston Bruins for the Atlantic Division lead. Montreal enters action Monday six points behind Boston and two points ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.

Los Angeles is wrapping up a quick two-game homestand. The Kings will begin a three-game road trip Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Montreal extended its points streak to five games with a 4-3 overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at Bell Centre. Max Pacioretty's second goal of the night was the game-winner at 3:28 of the extra period.

It was the third game the Canadiens have played since the 2014 Sochi Olympics, all without Carey Price. The gold medal-winning goaltender continues to be day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Backup Peter Budaj has stopped 77 of 87 shots in the three games since the Olympic break to help Montreal earn five of a possible six points.

"He's been unbelievable," Pacioretty said of Budaj. "He's kept us in all three games that he's played [since the break]. He's come up with some huge saves in some key moments, and I think that's probably the most important thing a goalie can do, is come up with big saves at the right time, and it seems like he's got that right now.

"We see him work hard every day. You guys don't see what goes on behind the scenes, but he's one of the hardest working goalies I've ever seen and it's good to see him getting rewarded."

Kings: Los Angeles held an optional skate Sunday after playing three games in four nights coming out of the Olympic break. Forward Anze Kopitar did not participate, but he did speak with reporters after practice. The Kings are 3-0-0 since the break and reside in third place in the Pacific Division, eight points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks.

"I think we are a team that is built better for playoffs than we are for the regular season," Kopitar told LA Kings Insider. "It seems like even the last couple years, we've had some struggles during the regular season, but when it's time to make it all happen, we were right there and we were up to the challenge. I think it's getting to about that point of the year where you've got to ramp it up. The guys are well-rested now, and we're going to be ready to go."

Who's hot: Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov has seven assists during a five-game point streak. Pacioretty has three goals and an assist over the past two games. … Kings forward Justin Williams has two goals and two assists in the past three games.

Injury report: Besides Price, the Canadiens could also be without forwards Ryan White (flu) and  Brandon Prust (upper body). Forward Michael Bournival (concussion) is out.

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