CANADIENS (21-11-2) at ISLANDERS (23-10-0)
TV: RDS, SNE, MSG+ 2
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders called up goaltender Kevin Poulin from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis Tuesday with goalie Jaroslav Halak not dressing for the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum.
New York has won four in a row, including a 3-1 home victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Halak, a former Canadiens player, was in goal for the four wins, but coach Jack Capuano said backup Chad Johnson will start against Montreal.
"It's a big game for him, and he's excited to get in there and play," Capuano said, adding Halak needed "another maintenance day."
The Islanders would like to cap their best pre-Christmas start in more than three decades with a victory.
Johnson is 5-4-0 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .868 save percentage. He hasn't played since Dec. 9, when he allowed five goals on 30 shots in a 5-4 road loss to the Minnesota Wild, when the Islanders were unable to hold a three-goal lead in the third period.
The Islanders are 23-10-0 as they approach their final game before the holiday break. The last time they were this good at this stage of the season was 1983-84, when they were 24-10-2 and on the way to their fifth consecutive Stanley Cup Final.
Capuano said he doesn't expect two weeks between games to affect Johnson.
"It's tough when you go a little bit of an extended time and you don't play," Capuano said. "He's been in that situation before with [Tuukka] Rask [with the Boston Bruins]. I expect he'll go out and give us a chance to win."
Johnson is eager to show he deserves more playing time.
"Obviously, the Minnesota game was not a good one," he said. "That's in the past. I'm looking forward to having a big game tonight. I'm excited to get back in there."
With the World Junior Championship set to take over Bell Centre, the Canadiens (21-11-2) begin a five-game road trip atop the Atlantic Division after going 4-1-0 on a five-game homestand that ended with a 4-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
"We're satisfied, but we're looking for more," coach Michel Therrien said. "We are part of a group that's going to battle to make the playoffs. It's very demanding to make the [Stanley Cup Playoffs], and we're going to fight to the end."
The Canadiens and Islanders are playing for the first time this season, but Therrien is aware New York has been among the NHL's best teams so far.
"This is a good hockey team," he said. "They ended up picking up three important pieces of the puzzle with two solid defensemen [Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk] and a goalie [Halak]. They play with confidence and they've got a lot of skill."
Therrien did not discuss lineups or announce a starting goaltender, but Carey Price was first off the ice, indicating he's likely to play.
The Canadiens will have at least a few fans at the Coliseum. Montreal forward Max Pacioretty, a native of New Canaan, Conn., smiled when asked how many family members and friends would be in attendance.
"There's going to be a lot of people here tonight. It's going to be fun to play in front of them," said Pacioretty, who has nine goals and 14 points in 16 games against the Islanders. "This is a great team and they've had a lot of success over here, especially lately."
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty – Alex Galchenyuk – Brendan Gallagher
Sven Andrighetto – Tomas Plekanec – Jiri Sekac
David Desharnais - Lars Eller – Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
Brandon Prust – Manny Malhotra – Dale Weise
Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Sergei Gonchar
Nathan Beaulieu – Tom Gilbert
Scratched: Mike Weaver, Bryan Allen, Michael Bournival
Josh Bailey - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Nikolay Kulemin
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Brian Strait, Matt Donovan, Jaroslav Halak
Injured: Michael Grabner (lower body), Matt Carkner (back)
Status report: Grabner is missing his fourth consecutive game. He also missed New York's first 25 games after having sports hernia surgery.
Who's hot: Pacioretty had two assists against Ottawa and has five in the past three games. Galchenyuk has four goals and six points in that span. … Lee had the winning goal in each of the Islanders past two games.