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Crosby back in Canada as Penguins visit Canadiens

by Sergei J. Feldman
PENGUINS (13-6-4) at CANADIENS (10-10-3)


Last 10:
Pittsburgh (5-3-2); Montreal (5-4-1)

Season Series: This will be the second of four meetings this season between the two clubs. Pittsburgh took care of Montreal on home ice, 3-1, on Oct. 20. James Neal, Arron Asham and Joe Vitale delivered for the Penguins, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 18 of 19 shots in a winning effort.

Big Story: When the Penguins visit Montreal, it will mark the first Sidney Crosby visit to Canada since Dec. 26, 2010, three games before the Pens' captain suffered a concussion. Both clubs are playing in the second of back-to-back games. While the Penguins are riding the momentum from Crosby's return to the lineup, the Habs aim to get back on the winning track and feel good about themselves entering the month of December.

Team Scope:

Penguins: After a recent skid, in which the club lost three of four games, including two straight during a trip to Florida, the Penguins rebounded nicely with points in three consecutive games, including wins against the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators. Incidentally, the team's recent success began with the return of Crosby, who has 7 points in the three games since returning to the ice.

The Pens are coming off a dominant effort against Ottawa Friday night. After trailing early, the team surged to what was a 6-3 victory and were led by Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who combined for 5 points in the win. Giving up the first goal has become a recent trend for the Penguins, so when the Senators struck first, it was important for the club to bounce back, which they did and cruised to an eventual win.

"There was a talk on our bench right away about a response," coach Dan Bylsma said, referring to giving up the early goal. "And before you could hear the echo, we had responded. It continued from there."

Canadiens: Friday night didn't go as planned for the Canadiens, who lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1, on the road. This month hasn't treated the Habs too well, either, as the club has won consecutive games just once against Phoenix and Nashville on Nov. 10 and Nov. 12, respectively. Despite the recent up-and-down play, the Habs are still in the thick of things in the east, trailing the Northeast Division leader Toronto by five points.

One way to get back on track will be to win at home, a task that has eluded the team so far. The Habs are just 4-5-3 in front of Canadiens Nation. Special teams are often the cure and while the Habs have the League's best penalty-killing unit, they are in the bottom third on the power play.

"We're going to have to find solutions," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We need to be turning our chances on the power play into goals. I'm not trying to be critical of the guys on the ice when have the man-advantage, either. We just need to find a way to score those goals."

Who's Hot: Crosby has led the way for the Penguins, collecting a 4-point night and a 3-point night in three games since being back. ... The Candiens have relied on Mike Cammalleri and his points in three of the past five games.

Injury Report: Dustin Jeffrey (knee), Ben Lovejoy (wrist) and Brian Strait (elbow) remain out for the Pens, while Scott Gomez (groin), Jaroslav Spacek (undisclosed), Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body) and Andrei Markov (knee) are out for the Candiens.

Stat Pack: The Penguins are seventh in the League in goals-per-game, while the Canadiens are ranked seventh in goals-against.

Puck Drop: The Habs bring a streak of 40 consecutive penalties killed into the game against Pittsburgh.

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