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Penguins vs. Canadiens Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 14-7-1-29
Road: 12-5-2-26

WHEN: Jan. 6, 2011 - 7:30 pm   |   WHERE: Bell Centre
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Montreal Canadiens
Home: 12-5-3-27

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens 
Tomas Plekanec
C -  #14
  12 Goals
  20 Assists
  32 Points
• After leading the Canadiens in scoring with a career-high 70 points (25G-40) in 2009-10, the Canadiens signed the forward to a six-year contract on June 30, 2010.

• Represented the Czech Republic alongside Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

• Exploded for 89 points (54G-35A) with Hamilton of the American Hockey League during the lockout season in 2004-05.
Brian Gionta
RW  -  #21
  14 Goals
  9 Assists
  23 Points
• Named Montreal’s captain at the start of this season, after the Canadiens went without one for the 2009-10 campaign after the departure of longtime captain Saku Koivu to Anaheim.

• After pacing the squad with 28 goals last season, he’s on pace to achieve the same total with a team-leading 14 goals this season while firing 162 shots on goal, good for sixth in the league.

• The 5-foot-7 forward, one of the smallest players in the league, won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2003 after playing four seasons for Boston College from 1997 to 2001.
Carey Price
G  -  #31
   .919 save %
  2.37 GAA
• Played phenomenally in November, earning the NHL’s ‘Second Star’ honors for the month after winning a personal-best eight games (including three shutouts) and starting a career-high 12-straight games from Oct. 30 to Nov. 24.

• After being named to the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2008, he played in both the NHL All-Star Game and the NHL YoungStars Game in 2009.

• The 23-year-old was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by Montreal in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Thursday’s game will be just the second in six days for the Canadiens, who held the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as of Wednesday with a four-point lead over ninth-place Carolina.

The Canadiens are averaging 2.50 goals per game, tied for sixth-worst in the league. Montreal hasn’t had a problem getting the puck to the net; it’s actually finding the back of it that’s been their kryptonite. The Habs fired a season-high 50 shots to Atlanta’s 28, but never held the lead and ending up losing to the Thrashers in overtime, 4-3. The game before that, the Canadiens sent 48 blasts on net to Florida’s 22, barely squeaking out a 3-2 overtime win.

Forwards Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta spurred their team to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and they’re providing plenty of leadership this year as well. Gionta, who led the Habs with 28 goals in 2009-10, is pacing the squad again this season with 14 tallies, while Cammalleri ranks second on the team with 12 goals (tied) and 28 points.

Spreading the small but uber-talented Cammalleri (5-foot-9) and Gionta (5-foot-7) through two lines adds impressive depth to Montreal’s offense. Tomas Plekanec has been remarkable with a team-leading 32 points, while Andrei Kostitsyn has scored 23 points on the Habs’ first line with Plekanec and Cammalleri.

Their defense suffered a blow with the loss of Andrei Markov, who suffered season-ending knee injury on Nov. 13. Markov provided an offensive punch in addition to solid defense, as he posted 64 points through 78 games in 2008-09 and 34 points through 45 games in 2009-10. But the acquisition of James Wisniewski on Dec. 28 has already garnered immediate repercussions on the Habs’ blueline, as the defenseman has five points in his last two games with Montreal.

While the rest of the Habs’ fortunes seem to be looking up, Carey Price has been struggling in net after a stellar beginning to the season, dropping eight of his past 10 starts. But while Price hasn’t been performing up to his usual standards, his 19 wins rank second in the league.
  • The Penguins’ top guns seem to find success against the Canadiens. In 18 career games against the Habs, Sidney Crosby tallied 25 points (11G-14A), while Evgeni Malkin posted 22 points (8G-14A) in 16 games.
  • Thursday’s game features the two best penalty killing units in the NHL. The Penguins and Canadiens have been jockeying back and forth for the top spot in the league in PK success rate. The Habs currently hold the No. 1 position with a success rate of 87.4 percent, allowing 21 power-play goals on 166 shorthanded situations. Meanwhile, the Penguins aren’t far behind, with an 87.1-percent PK rate, allowing 22 goals on 170 power-plays.
  • But the Penguins might have the advantage on the penalty kill Thursday night, as the Canadiens have only killed off 82.9 percent of penalties at home, while the Penguins kill 89.3 percent on the road.
  • The Penguins have played eight sets of back-to-back games this season, posting an impressive 11-4-1 record heading into Wednesday’s contest with Tampa Bay. Only twice have the Penguins lost the second of back-to-backs, a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 15 and a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Dec. 29.
  • After struggling against the Penguins in the 2009-10 regular season – tallying just one point in four contests – Michael Cammalleri scored two goals on Oct. 9 as Montreal defeated the Penguins 3-2 in the second-ever regular season game at CONSOL Energy Center.


Contain Cammalleri: The Habs forward had the Penguins’ number last year in the playoffs, scoring seven goals in seven games to lead Montreal past Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. He had a pair of two-goal efforts in Games 2 and 6, then went on to tally two points (1G-1A) in Montreal’s 5-2 victory in Game 7. Cammalleri stands just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, but eludes defenders with a combination of strength and quickness. The Penguins’ defense will have to make sure they know where Cammalleri is at all times, especially in the slot, where he likes to release quick one-timers.

Don't Get Lost in the Atmosphere:
Thursday will be the Penguins’ first game back in Montreal since the 2010 playoffs, with Pittsburgh dropping three of their last four contests at the Bell Centre. The home of the Canadiens has a seating capacity of 21,273, making it the largest arena in the National Hockey League and one of the loudest, rowdiest rinks in the league. The Canadiens are 12-5-3 at home, and their contingent of die-hard supporters know how to make the atmosphere electric.
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
F Eric Godard, eye (4)
D Andrei Markov, knee (out for the season)
D Josh Gorges, knee (indefinitely)
Crosby (32) Gionta (14)
Crosby (34) Wisniewski (21)
Crosby (66) Plekanec (32)
Engelland (76) Moen (51)
Letang (+23) Kostitsyn (+9)
Crosby (10) Cammalleri (5)
Adams/Cooke (2)
Three tied with (1)
Fleury (18-9-2) Price (19-14-3)
Johnson (2.14) Auld (1.91)
Johnson (.925) Auld (.937)

Alex Goligoski - The third-year defenseman earned his first-career four-point night in an 8-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday, when he scored a goal and earned three assists. He notched two helpers on the power play, when he utilized time and space to place two blasts from the point into perfect position for Chris Kunitz to re-direct into the net. He scored the Penguins’ eighth and final goal on a 4-on-1 rush when he sniped the puck into the top right corner of the net. Goligoski’s goal, his seventh of the season, leaves him one shy of his career-best of eight, set last season through 69 games. He now has 22 points on the season.
James Wisniewski - After being traded from the New York Islanders on Dec. 28, Wisniewski scored two goals, including the overtime game winner, in just his second game with the Canadiens to propel Montreal past Florida, 3-2, on Dec. 31. Wisniewski now has five points in his last two games, as the defenseman added two helpers in the Canadiens’ 4-3 overtime loss to Atlanta on Jan. 2, and has recorded 11 points (3G-8A) in his past nine contests.

Notebook: First Period Frenzy Fuels Pens
Hats Off to Kunitz
Aftermath: Penguins 8, Lightning 1 
Fleury's Remarkable Turnaround Results in All-Star Appearance
Letang's Continued Improvement Makes for All-Star Season
Four Penguins Named To 2011 All-Star Game 
 Crosby, Luongo and Lidstrom named NHL 'Three Stars' For December 
King of Engelland
Penguins Sign Defenseman Engelland to 3-Year Contract Extension  
2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Most-Watched Regular Season Game in 36 Years 
Pens Say 'Thank You' To Fans 

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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