GAME: Montreal Canadiens (39-26-6-3) at New Jersey Devils (38-22-11-2).
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Montreal Canadiens and the New Jersey Devils are battling for sixth
place in the Eastern Conference.
A strong performance by either team in this home-and-home series could lead
to a higher seeding.
The Canadiens will look to extend their point streak to seven games when
they face the Devils at Continental Airlines Arena.
While New Jersey and Montreal are virtual locks to reach the playoffs, the
final position for both will be determined over the last three weeks of the
season. Montreal will likely finish no lower than seventh, but is just two
points behind sixth-place New Jersey. The Devils are still hoping to catch
Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Canadiens have been one of the league's hottest teams, losing once in
regulation in the last 12 games (10-1-0-1) while gaining points in six straight
After completing a road trip with three straight wins, Montreal returned
home and recorded five of a possible six points against Florida, Toronto and
Captain Saku Koivu's power-play goal 4:18 into the third period snapped a
tie, and Jose Theodore stopped 29 shots in Montreal's 4-2 victory over the
Avalanche on Tuesday.
"It was another big test for our team," Koivu said. "We've gained some
confidence by playing teams that are above us and we've been successful. We're
taking small steps but we're gaining some ground and some confidence."
All-Star defenseman Sheldon Souray expects to return to the Canadiens'
lineup either Friday or Saturday when the teams meet at the Bell Centre.
Souray, having the best season of his career with 15 goals and 35 points, has
been out since Feb. 10 with a knee injury.
"I've worked to get back into shape, but it's the coach's decision on
whether I play Friday and how much I play," Souray said. "I want to get back
as soon as possible, but with the team playing as well as it has, there's no
sense of urgency."
The line of Jeff Friesen, Sergei Brylin and Viktor Kozlov combined for three
goals and eight assists Wednesday as the Devils coasted to their second
straight victory, 6-1 over Pittsburgh.
Kozlov, acquired from Florida last month, had one goal and three assists in
his second game with New Jersey.
"This is a good team. It's easy to click in," Kozlov said. "I got my
confidence back a little bit. I felt a little better. For me, every game is
important. There are only nine games left until the playoffs. The faster I can
get into shape, the more I can bring to this team in the playoffs."
Three regular defensemen were missing from New Jersey's lineup Wednesday -
captain Scott Stevens, Brian Rafalski and Colin White. Stevens and Rafalski are
out for the rest of the regular season while White has missed the past two
games with a neck injury and is day-to-day.
STANDINGS (through March 17): Canadiens - 87 points, 4th place, 6 PB,
Northeast Division. Devils - 89 points, 2nd place, 5 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 25 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 41 assists
and 61 points; Darren Langdon, 135 PIM. Devils - Patrik Elias, 34 goals and 66
points; Scott Gomez, 47 assists; Colin White, 83 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 17): Canadiens - Power play: 18.4 percent (54
for 294), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (230 for 281), 24th. Devils
- Power play: 15.2 percent (41 for 269), 20th. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent
(203 for 240), 8th.
GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (31-24-5, 6 SO, 2.17 GAA); Mathieu Garon
(8-5-1, 2.44). Devils - Martin Brodeur (34-23-10, 10, 2.05); Scott Clemmensen
(2-1-0, 1, 1.35).
SEASON SERIES: 1-1-0.
LAST MEETING: March 1; Canadiens, 2-1. At Montreal, Jason Ward scored a
power-play goal with 24 seconds left in regulation to lift the Canadiens.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 18-15-2-2 on the road; Devils - 20-12-4-1 at