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Unbeaten Canadiens prepared for visit by Red Wings

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- A 5-3 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday made the Detroit Red Wings the second-to-last Eastern Conference team to lose this season.

The Red Wings have an opportunity to knock off the last team Saturday.

The Montreal Canadiens are off to their first 5-0-0 start and will try to extend that team record against the Red Wings at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET: NHLN, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-D).

After Montreal started the season with wins at the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, all games it was favored to win, the streak was extended with a 3-2 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins and a 3-0 win against the New York Rangers in the Canadiens' home opener Thursday.

"It's early in the season but we've played a lot of good teams," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Friday. "We had Pittsburgh, then last night we had the Rangers, and now it doesn't stop because we've got Detroit tomorrow night."

The teams are off to excellent starts and can use this game as an early measuring stick for where they stand.

"They've had a good team for a while," Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said. "I think they're very similar to what we're trying to do here, keep the same structure in place and same core group of guys. That's why they've had success making the playoffs for so many years; they believe in that group and that's what we're trying to accomplish here.

"It's a good role model for what we're trying to do, and they're playing some of their best hockey right now."

The Red Wings are adjusting to coach Jeff Blashill after 10 seasons under Mike Babcock and have yet to play a game with center Pavel Datsyuk, who is recovering from ankle surgery, center Darren Helm (concussion) and defenseman Danny DeKeyser (foot). Helm and DeKeyser will make their season debuts Saturday. In spite of those obstacles, the Red Wings are one of the top offensive teams in the NHL, scoring at least three goals in each of their four games and averaging 3.5 goals per game.

The Canadiens also have scored at least three goals in each of their games, though they reached that mark twice with an empty-net goal. They have a balanced, three-line attack with a mobile defense that can move the puck.

"Their foundation is pretty similar [to ours]," Therrien said. "[They're] a good team with a lot of speed and a lot of skill. They're not easy to play against, they can be creative offensively, and you can't forget that their bread and butter is to play well defensively."

The Red Wings have been able to withstand the absence of Datsyuk thanks to rookie Dylan Larkin, who extended his season-opening point streak to four games Friday. The Waterford, Mich., native played one season at the University of Michigan. Pacioretty also played his college hockey there and said he is eager to see Larkin play as a pro for the first time.

"I've heard about him second hand," Pacioretty said, "and I've heard he's unbelievable."

The Canadiens are a confident group and have maintained their focus on how they play and not what their opponents are trying to do.

"It's been five games, I'm not trying to make too much out of this," Montreal center Tomas Plekanec said. "But we're a good group and hopefully we keep it going."

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