CANADIENS (23-14-4) at STARS (20-12-7)
TV: RDS, FS-SW
Last 10: Montreal 4-5-1; Stars 6-2-2
Season series: The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 at Bell Centre on Oct. 29 behind 27 saves from Carey Price. Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque scored for Montreal; Cody Eakin scored the lone goal for the Stars.
Big story: The Stars will be looking to extend their season-long point streak to eight games, having gone 5-0-2 in their past seven games. While captain Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin have continued to excel through the streak, it is the play of former Canadiens forward Erik Cole that has helped drive the Stars' recent surge; he has five goals and eight points his past six games.
"There was a stretch where we were playing a pretty good brand of hockey and collecting some points and we weren't gaining any ground, and it was almost disheartening," Cole told the Dallas Morning News following a 3-2 win at home against the Los Angeles Kings on New Year's Eve. "I think that instead of winning a game and looking to see if we gained any ground, we just decided to forget about that and focus on our play.
"If we just focus on that and just focus on every night winning games and just playing hard for each other and playing the right way, then one day we'll wake up and be in fifth or fourth or whatever."
Canadiens: Montreal is coming off a 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, one where they had a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes but allowed four goals in a span of 6:38 early in the third period to fall behind. P.K. Subban's goal tied it up to send the game to overtime and salvage a point for the Canadiens, but an uncharacteristic lack of discipline cost them the game.
"We were ready to play, but we lost discipline and momentum from our team," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "We have been disciplined most of the time, and this is the first time I have seen that. There were some calls that were hard to take."
The Canadiens had to kill a season-high 10 power plays in the game and were successful for the first eight of them, but allowed two power-play goals in a span of 27 seconds early in the third to set the Hurricanes comeback in motion.
The loss in Carolina was the second time in 10 days the Canadiens blew a three-goal lead. The Nashville Predators erased a 3-0 deficit after 20 minutes Dec. 21, but David Desharnais scored in overtime to get Montreal the win.
The game in Dallas will end a season-long six-game road trip for the Canadiens that straddled the Christmas break. Montreal is 2-2-1 on the trip.
Stars: The Stars' run of seven games without a regulation loss has come against some difficult opposition. Their five wins came against the Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Predators and Kings (twice), with a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks and an overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues mixed in.
All of those teams, with the exception of the Predators, are ahead of Dallas in the standings in the tough Western Conference, and their success against teams like that has the Stars believing in themselves.
"I think we know our identity, and that's to be good defensively and use our team speed when we have a chance," center Rich Peverley told the Dallas Morning News after Tuesday's win against the Kings. "There's not a lot of teams in the League that can skate with us. We have four lines and six [defensemen] that can all skate."
Who's hot: For the Stars, aside from Cole, Benn has a four-game point streak, with three goals and three assists in that span. … For the Canadiens, Max Pacioretty had two goals and Desharnais had three assists against the Hurricanes.
Injury report: The Stars are without defensemen Sergei Gonchar (concussion), Stephane Robidas (leg) and Trevor Daley (ankle). … The Canadiens are missing right wing George Parros (concussion) and defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder).