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Habs aim for back-to-back wins vs. angry Caps

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens once again will attempt to embark on a potentially season-saving winning streak tonight, but they will have to do it against an angry Washington Capitals team.

Not only do the Capitals have injured teammate Nicklas Backstrom on their minds as they face the player who hurt him, Montreal's Rene Bourque, but they are coming off a 3-0 loss at home to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, when they generated just 17 shots on goal.

"We came out flat, they jumped on us on their power play and they shut us down after that," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "We didn't generate much. They trapped it up and did a good job. You've got to give them credit."

The loss was just the Capitals' third in their past 10 games, and it was the first time all season they've been shut out. But this game marks the first of a stretch of six out of seven games on the road, with the final one of those games back here in Montreal on Feb. 4. Washington has struggled mightily away from Verizon Center this season, with a 7-12-1 road record, including just one win in their past six road games (1-4-1).

The Canadiens, coming off a convincing 4-1 win against the New York Rangers, will look to string together consecutive wins for just the fifth time this season. Aside from a four-game win streak from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4, the Habs have won as many as two games in a row on just three other occasions.

Coach Randy Cunneyworth will go with the same lineup that beat the Rangers, meaning he will dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards for an eighth straight game. The lone exception will be Carey Price coming back in for Peter Budaj in goal.

Hunter would not confirm whether he would go with Tomas Vokoun or Michal Neuvirth in net, but did say that defenseman John Erskine will draw in for rookie Tomas Kundratek.

The game also will mark the Bell Centre return of former Canadiens Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern, who both left Montreal over the summer to sign as free agents with Washington.
Here are the expected lineups:

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Alexander Semin
Mike Knuble - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Cody Eakin - Mathieu Perreault - Matt Hendricks

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Dennis Wideman
Dmitry Orlov - John Erskine
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Andrei Kostitsyn
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Mike Blunden
Mathieu Darche - Scott Gomez
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Hal Gill - Yannick Weber
Tomas Kaberle

Carey Price will start in net, with Peter Budaj the backup.
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