CANADIENS (8-5-0) at WILD (6-4-3)
TV: RDS, FS-WI, FS-N+
Last 10: Montreal 7-3-0; Minnesota 6-3-1
Season series: This is the first of two games this season. The Montreal Canadiens will try for their third straight win against the Minnesota Wild.
Big story: Special teams could prove to be the detrmining factor Friday with two of the stronger power-play units in the NHL going head to head. The Wild sat at second in the Western Conference as of Thursday with a 24.5 percent success rate with the man advantage and the Canadiens were fifth in the Eastern Conference at 22.6 percent. Montreal will seek to exploit the struggling Minnesota penalty kill, which was 27th in the NHL as of Thursday at 75.9 percent.
Canadiens: With so many injuries to its forwards this season, Montreal has been forced to rely on its defense and goaltending to shoulder the load. The goalie combination of Carey Price and backup Peter Budaj has been nearly perfect recently, combining for a 1.00 goals-against average and earning three wins in the Canadiens' past four games, including two straight victories.
Defenseman Douglas Murray made his Canadiens debut in a 2-0 road win Monday against the New York Rangers; in a 2-1 win Tuesday against the visiting Dallas Stars on Tuesday he chipped in with six hits and three blocked shots during his 12 minutes of ice time. In all, the Canadiens blocked 29 shots, three more Price's save total.
"You can see guys want to pay the price to get some wins, and that's a great sign," coach Michel Therrien said. "When guys were blocking shots on the ice you could see the reaction from the guys on the bench. This is good for team spirit. They sacrificed their bodies to make sure we get the job done."
Wild: Like its opponent Friday, Minnesota has been dealing with its share of injuries and roster decisions. But according to the Wild's official blog "View From the Lighthouse," the team expects center Charlie Coyle to return to the lineup Friday after missing nearly a month due to a knee sprain.
On the blue line, the front office must decide whether rookie Mathew Dumba will play in his 10th NHL game, which would make the first-year of his entry-level contract official. Coach Mike Yeo confirmed Wednesday that Dumba would not be in the lineup Friday, and it remains unclear if veteran defenseman Keith Ballard will be able to return after being sidelined since Oct. 14 with a head injury; he was struck in the face with a puck in a road game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Yeo was tinkering with his offense at practice Wednesday, including splitting up captain Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise from the top line.
"We're trying some stuff," Yeo said. "We know that [Koivu and Parise] are very good together and dangerous together. But we want to see if they can click with some other guys and strengthen our whole group."
Who's hot: Center Tomas Plekanec has two goals and four assists in his past five games for Montreal. … Parise has two goals and two assists in his past four games for Minnesota.
Injury report: Canadiens forward George Parros (concussion) is expected to be activated off injured reserve and return to the lineup. Forward Max Pacioretty (lower body) could return either Friday or Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. Travis Moen is questionable; he's dealing with a facial cut. Forwards Brandon Prust (shoulder) and Daniel Briere (concussion) and defensemen Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and Alexei Emelin (knee) remain sidelined. … Coyle is expected to return to the Wild lineup Friday, while Ballard's status is questionable. Defenseman Jonas Brodin (broken cheekbone) and forward Mike Rupp (knee) are out indefinitely.