Most teams welcome a visit from the struggling Atlanta Thrashers this season. The Montreal Canadiens should be no different.
The Canadiens try to improve to 2-0 on their franchise-record seven-game homestand Tuesday night when they face off against a Thrashers team trying to avoid a fourth straight loss.
Montreal (13-6-4) had dropped three straight home games and four of seven overall, but opened this homestand Saturday with a 3-2 victory over Buffalo. The Canadiens scored all of their goals in the second period, with Andrei Markov providing the eventual game-winner. Andrei Kostitsyn and Steve Begin also scored for Montreal, which improved to 4-2-2 in its last eight contests.
"We're still up and down, we're still looking for our game and I think we can play better," said Markov, who is tied for second on the team with 17 points.
Another strong performance from Carey Price may help the Canadiens extend their momentum. The second-year netminder, who has stopped 58 of 61 shots in winning his last two starts, made 26 saves versus Buffalo to improve to 5-1-2 with a 1.77 goals-against average in eight home games.
The Canadiens, in the midst of the longest homestand in their team's 100-year existence, host Atlanta (8-12-3), the New York Rangers, New Jersey, Calgary, Tampa Bay and Washington between now and Dec. 13.
Montreal split four games with Atlanta last season, but holds an 21-6-3 edge in the all-time series. The Canadiens won the most recent meeting, 5-1 at the Bell Centre on Feb. 26.
Atlanta enters December having lost three straight contests and six of its seven (1-5-1) since a season-high five-game winning streak from Nov. 2-14.
Ondrej Pavelec made a career-high 43 saves on Sunday to keep the game close, but it wasn't enough in a 4-2 home loss to St. Louis.
"We're not playing up to as good as we can play right now," coach John Anderson told the Thrashers' official Web site. "(We've) got to figure it out right away, because it will get so far out of hand that we won't be able to reel it back in."
Anderson's club, which is opening a three-game road trip, is allowing 3.57 goals per game - second-most in the NHL behind Dallas (3.65).
The Thrashers' defense may be further hindered Tuesday if former Canadien Mathieu Schneider can't play. Schneider, a 1987 Montreal draft pick who spent parts of his first seven NHL seasons with the Canadiens, exited Sunday's game with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
Meanwhile, Montreal may again be without one of its top offensive producers. Alex Tanguay, who leads the team with eight goals, has missed the last two games with a neck injury. He has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 10 career games versus Atlanta.