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Canadiens wary of Penguins despite slow start

by Wes Crosby

CANADIENS (3-0-0) at PENGUINS (0-2-0)


PITTSBURGH -- When goalie Carey Price returns to the Montreal Canadiens' crease Tuesday, he'll face what, on paper, seems like a sizable test.

In reality, the Pittsburgh Penguins are 0-2-0 with one goal scored entering their game against Montreal at Consol Energy Center. The matchup seems to favor Price, who has stopped 55 of 58 shots in his first two starts, while backup Mike Condon allowed one goal on 21 shots in a 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

The Canadiens, however, don't believe the Penguins' start is indicative of their skill level.

"There's going to be a game in the near future where they're going to put up a lot of goals and we just have to make sure it's not against us," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said. "They have probably the best firepower up front in the League and it's going be a big challenge for us tonight."

Penguins coach Mike Johnston was critical of his team's start in its 2-1 loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday and expects an improved early effort in the home opener.

"It's going to be nice to be at home here tonight," Johnston said. "There's going to be a lot of excitement in the building. So I think you're going to see a different start for sure."

Pittsburgh's power play has been a disappointment thus far. It's failed to score on seven opportunities, primarily with forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin split between two units. Crosby and Malkin were reunited on the man-advantage late against Arizona.

Because of the optional Tuesday morning skate, which did not include forwards Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz or Crosby, any changes to Pittsburgh's power play will not be made public before the game. But despite the power play's lack of efficiency, the Penguins don't feel it matters whether they continue to split talent across two units or stack one unit with key players.

"I just think it's simplifying things at times. But we've had a lot of scoring chances," defenseman Kris Letang said. "We have tons of guys who can play on the power play. Either way, if I'm up on the ice I'm with one of those guys [Crosby or Malkin]. It doesn't really matter."

Although they've scored 10 goals this season, the Canadiens have faced their own power-play issues while failing to score on 12 of 13 chances in the past two games. Coach Michel Therrien said the power play must avoid stalling the even-strength momentum it gains.

"Five-on-five we have momentum of the game. I don't want to lose momentum because of the power play," Therrien said. "We haven't been able to practice the power play. It's a lot of repetition. And when things aren't going your way, most of the time you go back to your old habits. That's what's been happening the last two games.

"We went back to our old habits and I was not satisfied."

Here are the projected lineups:


Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Alexander Semin

Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Brian Flynn - Torrey Mitchell - Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry

Nathan Beaulieu - Tom Gilbert

Carey Price

Mike Condon

Injured: Michael Bournival (concussion)

Scratched: Paul Byron, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi

Suspended: Zack Kassian


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Phil Kessel

David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Sergei Plotnikov - Nick Bonino - Beau Bennett

Daniel Sprong - Matt Cullen - Kevin Porter

Ian Cole - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Ben Lovejoy

Brian Dumoulin - Rob Scuderi

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (lower body), Eric Fehr (elbow)

Scratched: Adam Clendening, Tim Erixon

Status report: Perron likely will move to the second line with Malkin and Hornqvist in place of Plotnikov. Johnston said he thought Plotnikov's performance noticeably improved once he moved to the third line with Bonino and Bennett in his second NHL game. … Except Price starting, no changes to Montreal's lineup are expected.

Who's hot: Kessel scored his first goal with the Penguins, the only goal they've scored this season, against the Coyotes on Saturday. He is second on the Penguins with nine shots on goal, one behind Letang. … Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Subban lead the Canadiens with four points each. Pacioretty leads in goals with two.

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