Season series -- The teams are seeing each other for the second time this season, but the first in nearly three months. Montreal came to Pittsburgh on Oct. 9, the first Saturday night of the new season, and won 3-2 in its first visit to the new Consol Energy Center. The Penguins come back to the Bell Centre in just six days.
Big story -- The Penguins routed Tampa Bay 8-1 on Wednesday, but the win came with a price. Coach Dan Bylsma announced a few hours before the game that Sidney Crosby would miss the game due to an upper-body injury and was being sent back to Pittsburgh for evaluation. Bylsma said the injury occurred Wednesday, though Crosby also took a big hit from Washington's Dave Steckel in Saturday's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Penguins -- If Bylsma was worried about his team having a hangover after losing the Winter Classic, he needn't have been concerned. One night after the Lightning shut out Washington 1-0 in overtime in the Caps' first post-Classic game, the Penguins tore Tampa Bay apart. Evgeni Malkin scored 7 seconds into the game, Pittsburgh got five goals in the first period and the Penguins routed the Bolts 8-1.
"It was nice to get out fast," said forward Chris Kunitz, who had three goals for his first hat trick since 2006. "Geno's goal in 7 seconds got us going, and things went right."
Canadiens -- Seven games and more than two weeks on the road made the second half of December a tough stretch for the Canadiens. They lost in their return to the Bell Centre on Sunday, ending a stretch of four games in six days, and were more than happy to enjoy the three-day break and get in a couple of solid practices.
"It should be a good thing for us to have a little bit of time off between games," goalie Carey Price said. "It feels like we're either playing every day or getting the day off because we need it. This week we're lucky enough to have a lot of practice time and that'll be a great chance for us to work on getting back to doing all the little things that brought us success in the first half of the year."
Who's hot -- Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski had the biggest offensive night of his career with 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) against the Lightning. Malkin has goals in back-to-back games. … Defenseman James Wisniewski, acquired last week from the Islanders, has 5 points in three games with the Canadiens.
Injury report -- Montreal will be without defenseman Andrei Markov (knee) for the rest of the season. Blueliner Josh Gorges is also out with a knee problem. … Forward Matt Cooke returned to Pittsburgh with Crosby for personal reasons. Enforcer Eric Godard is still sidelined with an eye injury, and forward Mike Comrie is out indefinitely after hip surgery last week.
Stat pack -- Malkin's goal against Tampa Bay was one second short of the team record for fastest goal from the start of a game, set by Jean Pronovost in 1976. … The Penguins are 26-12-3 through their first 41 games; they were 26-14-1 last season at the same point. … Montreal has scored just five times in its last two games despite getting 98 shots on goal, including 50 on Sunday.
Puck drop -- Perhaps the best note for the Penguins in their blowout of the Lightning was who didn't have a lot of points. While Kunitz had 3 goals and Goligoski put up 4 points, Crosby had a lone assist. It was his first point in three games after piling up 50 during a 25-game scoring streak.
Kunitz said Penguins need to get offense from players other than No. 87.
"It's nice that other guys are getting confidence," he said, "We don't have to rely on Sid every night."