CANADIENS (24-11-2) at DEVILS (13-19-7)
TV: RDS, SNE, MSG+
Keith Kinkaid faces another tall order Friday in his fourth NHL start.
The New Jersey Devils rookie goaltender will have some reinforcements in front of him.
Kinkaid will start at Prudential Center against the Montreal Canadiens, who have won four straight and seven of eight, and are one of seven teams in the League with at least 50 points.
Kinkaid is 1-0-2 in his first three starts, which have all gone to the shootout. He's seen elite competition already in the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, all of whom join the Canadiens in the aforementioned 50-point category.
"I actually skated with him one time in the summer. I think he's from the area. He's a great goalie," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said Friday of Kinkaid. "Every goalie in this League is capable of putting up big games and he's no different from anyone else. But we just try to worry about our game and not worry about who we're facing."
The Devils (13-19-7) had several players participate in the morning skate who were previously sidelined by illness or injury. Patrik Elias, who has been out with the mumps, practiced on the second line with Travis Zajac and Martin Havlat, the latter of whom missed time with an illness that was not mumps-related.
Michael Ryder, who had the mumps, alternated with Tuomo Ruutu at right wing on the third line. Steve Bernier, who left late in the third period of a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday with a lower-body injury, alternated with Jordin Tootoo at right wing on the fourth line.
Elias, Havlat and Ryder are all likely to play, general manager Lou Lamoriello said. Eric Gelinas is ill, however, and will be replaced on defense by Seth Helgeson.
"He called this morning and he had a rough night," Lamoriello said. "So hopefully it's just the flu, but the way things have been going you don't know."
Goalie Carey Price starts his 400th NHL game for the Canadiens (24-11-2), who ended 2014 with a 2-1 shootout win against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. They enter Friday two points behind the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"We have five games on the road and we were able to win the first three, but we've never looked at it like a block of five games," coach Michel Therrien said. "We take it one game at a time and tonight won't be any different. When we look at the standings, this is a big game for us. It's really tight and the other teams close to us have been winning, so we can't let up."
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher
David Desharnais - Tomas Plekanec - PA Parenteau
Jiri Sekac - Lars Eller - Brandon Prust
Sven Andrighetto - Michael Bournival - Dale Weise
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu - Sergei Gonchar
Alexei Emelin - Tom Gilbert
Scratched: Bryan Allen, Mike Weaver, Manny Malhotra
Dainius Zubrus - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr
Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Martin Havlat
Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Tuomo Ruutu - Tim Sestito - Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene - Peter Harrold
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
Seth Helgeson - Adam Larsson
Injured: Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (concussion), Damon Severson (ankle), Jacob Josefson (illness), Stephen Gionta (broken hand), Steve Bernier (lower body), Eric Gelinas (illness)
Status report: New Jersey assigned forward Stefan Matteau to Albany of the American Hockey League and placed forward Mike Sislo on waivers with the intent of sending him to Albany. Sislo will count on the NHL roster until Saturday at noon, Forward Joe Whitney, who scored his first NHL goal against Detroit, was assigned to Albany to make roster space for the players coming off injured reserve.
Who's hot: Gallagher has goals in three of the past four games. Eller has a goal and two assists during a three-game point streak. Price has won six of his past seven starts, allowing nine goals total. His save percentage is .956 over that span.