THRASHERS (4-1-0) at CANADIENS (2-5-0)
This is the first matchup of four for the Canadiens and the Thrashers. Last season, the two clubs split the series, with each team winning in their home towns. The Thrashers just missed taking the first game in Montreal, rallying with three goals in less than a minute for a 3-3 tie. The Canadiens responded, however, for the 5-4 win.
The Canadiens are riding a five-game losing streak and have yet to win at home. Their most recent loss was a 4-2 decision to the Senators on Saturday -- a loss in which the home fans had more reason to cheer for former Hab and current Senator Alex Kovalev than for their own Montreal team.
With just one notch in the loss column, the Thrashers are off to a thundering start and currently sit in second place in the Northeast Division behind the Capitals. In Atlanta’s 4-2 win on Saturday, goalie Johan Hedberg made 40 saves in his first start of the season and collected an assist. The game in Buffalo marked the Thrashers' second of back-to-back road games. They defeated New Jersey, 4-2, on Friday.
"Last year we started out awfully, and we were out of it at Christmas time," Hedberg said. "We learned from that, and we're trying to get as many points as we can early on here because we want to stay in this race."
Defenseman Marc-André Bergeron has been recalled from the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs. The power-play specialist was signed on Oct. 6 after the Canadiens' number one defenseman, Andrei Markov
, severed tendons in his ankle. Bergeron, who was in Hamilton on a conditioning stint, leads the Bulldogs in points with six assists in three games, and has a plus-6 rating. He was paired with Paul Mara at practice on Monday.
The Habs' power-play will welcome the boost. Montreal sits 24th on the power play at 15.38 percent. Atlanta on the other hand, is first on the power play, converting at 37.5 percent. It's a far cry from when Montreal had the League’s top power play in the 2007-08 season.
Ilya Kovalchuk's seven goals place him second in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin. Rich Peverley follows Kovalchuk's eight points on the Thrashers, with four goals and three assists. Tomas Plekanec
continues to lead the Habs with six points, while Mike Cammalleri
, who picked up his first goal as a Canadien on Saturday, has five points.
The Thrashers currently have no injuries. On the side of the Canadiens, Markov's injury will keep him out until February, while defenseman Ryan O'Byrne will be out for another few weeks with a knee injury. Glen Metropolit is still recovering from bruised ribs, but the center practiced with the club on Monday. He will not be ready in time to suit up for the Thrashers game.
Bergeron had 18 points (7-11) on the power play with the Wild last season.
While Bergeron won't completely replace Markov's skills, new blood in the dressing room might give the Habs the extra spark they need to break through and win at home -- although it won't be easy with a Thrashers team that's started out on fire.
-- Magalie Lafrenière, NHL.com