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Green expected back as Capitals host Canadiens

by Brian Hunter

CANADIENS (11-9-2) at CAPITALS (12-9-1)


Last 10: Montreal 4-4-2; Washington 7-2-1

Season series: This is the first of three games between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals. The road team won each matchup last season, with the Capitals taking two of three from the Canadiens.

Big story: Coming off a disappointing 4-0 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, the Capitals are poised to welcome defenseman Mike Green back to the lineup. Coach Adam Oates held Green out against the Penguins because he felt he wasn't ready conditioning-wise after missing time with a lower-body injury. Michal Neuvirth starts in goal while the Canadiens will go with Peter Budaj as they rest Carey Price for a home date Saturday against the Penguins.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Budaj will be making his fifth start of the season, and the results so far show why coach Michel Therrien is never shy about turning to him. He has three wins, a 1.48 goals-against average and .945 save percentage after going 8-1-1 in 13 appearances last season.

Max Pacioretty, who Montreal could really use to get going, sparked a 6-2 win against Minnesota on Tuesday with a natural hat trick in the second period. Pacioretty had two goals in his first 12 games. David Desharnais assisted on two of the goals for his first multi-point game of the season.

"You can tell when those two guys are going that we're a much rounder group," Price said of Pacioretty and Desharnais in The Montreal Gazette. "It's really good to see. They've been working hard all year and to finally see them get rewarded for their work is good."

Capitals: A regulation win against Pittsburgh would have lifted Washington back into first place in the Metropolitan Division; instead, the Capitals fell three points behind the Penguins. Alex Ovechkin was flying around, delivering six hits, but he was limited to two shots on goal. Marc-Andre Fleury had to make just 18 saves for the shutout.

On Thursday Oates seemed to be leaning toward going back to Braden Holtby, who made 36 saves.

"I'd like to give Holts a chance to maybe bounce back [Friday] and get another [start]," Oates told, "but we're still deciding because we have a split on the weekend."

In the end, Oates decided on Neuvirth, whose last start came Nov. 9. Holtby now figures to start Saturday at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Who's hot: Alex Galchenyuk has three goals and two assists in his past five games for the Canadiens. … Holtby has a .935 save percentage over his past three starts despite facing an average of 41.3 shots per game.

Injury report: Montreal forward Rene Bourque (lower body) won't play Friday and remains day-to-day, while defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is on injured reserve. … Washington defensemen Jack Hillen (tibia) and John Erskine (upper body) are on injured reserve.

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