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Devils, Canadiens begin home-and-home series

by David Kalan

DEVILS (11-11-5) at CANADIENS (15-9-3)


Last 10: New Jersey 6-4-0; Montreal 7-1-2

Season series: This is the first game of the season between the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens. The teams last faced off on April 23, a 3-2 Devils win at Prudential Center.

Big story: New Jersey looks to continue its climb up the Metropolitan Division standings when it visits Montreal for the first leg of a home-and-home series. The Canadiens are making a climb of their own, having not lost in regulation in nearly two weeks.

Team Scope:

Devils: For much of the season, the story in New Jersey has been that both Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur have been superb in net, but Schneider hasn't gotten nearly the same offensive support. Schneider experienced both ends of the spectrum in the Devils' past two games, as New Jersey broke out with a four-goal third period in its win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night before taking nearly 65 minutes to score against the last-place Buffalo Sabres 24 hours later. Schneider was in net for each game.

Against the Sabres, Schneider faced 15 shots, but stopped them all before Steve Bernier scored with 40.2 seconds left in overtime to give Schneider his second shutout of the season.

"I don't expect [a one-goal game] or think about it, but it doesn't matter if it's scoreless or tied 2-2 late in the game," Schneider said afterward. "You've got to be one save better to give your team a chance. When you're giving up under 20 shots a night, sometimes one goal is enough."

New Jersey's other goalie will see if the trend continues on Monday. Brodeur, who has gotten an average of 2.73 goals of support per game this season compared to just 1.50 for Schneider, will be in net in his hometown to face the Canadiens.

Canadiens: Montreal has won five of its past six games. The lone defeat in that stretch was a shootout loss to the Washington Capitals this past Friday, but perhaps most impressive is that all but one of Montreal's past six games has come against teams that made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

In Montreal's last game, Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist in a 4-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The key to the Canadiens' hot streak has been a stingy defense that has limited opposition opportunities, and made life easy for goalies Carey Price and Peter Budaj. The result has been 10 straight games allowing two goals or less.

"I'm going to keep emphasizing that," Price said Saturday. "We're playing excellent hockey in front of me. We're putting out 100 percent effort every night. There's no quit. That's been the key to our success so far."

Who's hot: Devils defenseman Andy Greene is on a five-game point streak (one goal, five assists). ... Price has won his past four starts for Montreal, and his .937 save percentage is fourth-best in the NHL.

Injury report: New Jersey placed defenseman Adam Larsson (lower body) on injured reserve Sunday. Forwards Ryan Carter (lacerations), Stephen Gionta (ankle) and Ryane Clowe (head) are all out, as well as defenseman Bryce Salvador (non-displaced foot fracture) … Montreal defenseman Davis Dewiske (shoulder surgery) is out until early April.

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