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Streaking Wild aim for season sweep of Canadiens

by Mike G. Morreale

WILD (13-4-4) at CANADIENS (10-9-2)


Last 10: Minnesota 8-1-1; Montreal 4-4-2

Season series: This is the second of two meetings this season. The Montreal Canadiens saw their three-game winning streak against the Minnesota Wild snapped on Nov. 2 at Xcel Energy Center when Jason Pominville scored with 5:28 left in the third period, giving the home team a 4-3 win.

Big story: Montreal goalie Carey Price is 1-3-2 over his past six games, but he sports a 2.16 goals-against average and .920 save percentage over that stretch. He is certainly in the running to become the starter for Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics at this point. Price had gone 145:42 without allowing a goal to the New York Rangers until Ryan Callahan snapped the streak 5:25 into the second period on Saturday. Price finished with 33 saves in a 1-0 loss.

"He's been that way all year and we've been talking about it all year," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said of Price. "He's given us a chance, and unfortunately we need to find ways to generate more pressure."

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota enters the matchup on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1), has earned points in 12 of the past 13 games (10-1-2) and is two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division standings. On Sunday, Mikko Koivu scored two goals, including the winner with 3:12 remaining, when the Wild extended their winning streak to four games with a 2-1 victory against the Winnipeg Jets. Josh Harding made 21 saves for his 12th victory.

"Our team is not giving up much and when they do, that's when I have to make that big save," Harding said. "But I can't say enough about how the D-men are playing, coming back to get the puck and breaking it out clean. It's fun to watch."

Canadiens: Defenseman Alexei Emelin played his first game on Saturday since sustaining a knee injury on April 6 in a collision with Boston's Milan Lucic. He earned just over 16 minutes of ice time, had two blocked shots and delivered three hits on the third defensive pair with Francis Bouillon much of the night. Montreal's loss to the Rangers snapped an eight-game winning streak at the Bell Centre against their Original Six foe.

"Emelin gave us 16 minutes of solid hockey. For a first game back, he was impressive. I liked his performance a lot," coach Michel Therrien told the team's website.

Who's hot: Canadiens wing Alex Galchenyuk has two goals, four points, a plus-3 rating and 14 shots on goal in the past four games. … Harding (12-2-2) leads the NHL in GAA (1.25) and save percentage (.946) and is 9-0-2 over the past 11 games. Zach Parise has four goals and nine points in the past eight games.

Injury report: Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom (concussion) is out indefinitely. Defenseman Keith Ballard (upper body) is on injured reserve. Forward Mike Rupp (knee) is on a conditioning assignment in the American Hockey League. … Montreal defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is out long-term.

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