CANADIENS (26-32-10) at CANUCKS (42-18-8)
LAST 10: Montreal 3-7-0; Vancouver 5-3-2
Season Series : This is the second and final meeting this season between these Canadian rivals. In their last matchup on Dec. 8, Montreal led 3-0 on an Erik Cole goal early in the second, but three unanswered Canucks goals, including two in the third, forced the game to a shootout, where Cody Hodgson scored the lone marker to give Vancouver a 4-3 win.
Big Story : This game pits two teams at very different ends of their conference standings. Montreal features the worst record in the Eastern Conference while Vancouver is still fighting for the top seed in the West. While Montreal just earned its first regulation win in almost a month, the Canucks recently closed out February with a record of 9-1-4.
Canadiens : One year after suffering a potentially career-ending injury, forward Max Pacioretty is back and better than ever.
Last March 8, Pacioretty suffered a concussion and a fractured vertebra when he was crunched into a stanchion at the Bell Centre by Boston's Zdeno Chara. He didn't play again in 2011-12.
Fast forward a year and Pacioretty joined the ranks of NHL 30-goal scorers this season by scoring a pair in the Canadiens' 5-3 win at Edmonton.
"To be honest, I actually had no idea today was the date," Pacioretty admitted after the game. "Someone mentioned it to me this afternoon, and it was in my mind a little bit while I was napping but I just tried not to think about it. I'm kind of a head case, so I tried to deflect the questions about it. I just hate thinking about that day and I hate talking about that day, but once the game was over I'm fine talking about it now."
Canucks : The Canucks entered Thursday's game against Winnipeg having lost back-to-back games in regulation at home, putting a crimp in their drive for a second straight Presidents' Trophy.
They avoided their first three-game home losing streak in three years, but it wasn't easy. The Jets went ahead 2-1 early in the third period, but Alex Edler tied the game and newcomer Samuel Pahlsson scored his first goal since being acquired from Columbus on deadline day to give Vancouver a hard-fought 3-2 win.
The Canucks acquired Pahlsson to be a checker; the goal was just his third of the season. He said he'd like to provide more offense but knows that's not his job.
"I would like to be the guy that scores all the time, but that's not the way it is.," he told the Canucks' website. "I'm trying to score, but it's not my role.
"It's fun to score a goal, and it's better when it's a game-winner. It hasn't been going in for me at all this season, so it's nice to get the first one with the new team."
Who's Hot: Pacioretty has been the spark behind Montreal's offense, registering five goals and eight points on his current four-game point streak. P.K. Subban has six points in his last four games. … For Vancouver, Edler has three goals in his last five games while Kevin Bieksa has five points, all assists on his current four-game point streak.
Injury Report: David Desharnais left Thursday's game with a lower-body injury while Andrei Markov (knee), Mathieu Darche (upper body), Brian Gionta (bicep surgery), Travis Moen (upper body), and Mike Blunden (knee surgery) are all on Montreal's IR. … For the Canucks, Keith Ballard (concussion) and Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) are on IR.
Stat Pack: After boasting the best home record in hockey last season with a 27-9-5 mark, the Canucks haven't been quite as automatic this season at Rogers Arena. Vancouver already has eight home losses, just one less than they had all last season. After going 3-1-2 in a six-game homestand in January, the team has already dropped two of four in their current seven-game home stretch.
Puck Drop: With his 30th goal on Thursday, Pacioretty earned the distinction of being the first American-born player to score 30 goals for the Canadiens. Habs captain Brian Gionta came close to being the first last season when he scored 29.