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Penguins vs. Canadiens Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 14-9-1-29
Road: 12-5-3-27

WHEN: Jan. 12, 2011 - 7:30 pm   |   WHERE: Bell Centre
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Montreal Canadiens
Home: 14-5-3-31

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens 
Benoit Pouliot
LW -  #57
  9 Goals
  10 Assists
  19 Points
• Drafted fourth overall by Minnesota in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, spending parts of four seasons there before getting traded to Montreal on Nov. 23, 2009, in exchange for Guillaume Latendresse.

• Possesses a dangerous combination of size and skill, scoring 15 goals in just 39 games with the Canadiens after arriving in Montreal last season.

• Played with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang on the Canadian team that won gold at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Vancouver.
Scott Gomez
C  -  #11
  6 Goals
  16 Assists
  22 Points
• Posted phenomenal numbers last season in his first playoff run with the Canadiens, tallying 14 points (2G-12A) in 19 games.

• Spent the first seven seasons of his career with New Jersey (five of those with current teammate Brian Gionta), the team that drafted him in the first round (27th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

• Won the Calder Trophy (best rookie) in 2000, leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup that same year and and again in 2003.
Roman Hamrlik
D  -  #44
  3 Goals
   15 Assists
  18 Points
• His 18 points (3G-15A) leads all Canadiens defensemen, as do his 76 hits and 88 blocked shots.

• The veteran defenseman has been in the league since 1992, spending stints with Tampa Bay, Edmonton, the New York Islanders and Calgary before heading to Montreal in 2007.

• Thrives against the Penguins, as Pittsburgh is the team that Hamrlik has recorded the most points against in his career with a 9-25-34 chart.
The Penguins will battle the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Wednesday for the second time in a week, as the two teams faced off in Montreal on Jan. 6.

The Canadiens have won two straight games since, starting with a come-from-behind overtime victory over Boston on Jan. 8 reminiscent of the Bruins’ win over the Penguins on Monday. Montreal tallied twice with 2:22 remaining in regulation before forward Max Pacioretty netted the winner in extra time. They then edged the New York Rangers, 2-1, on Tuesday.

The Canadiens seem to thrive under pressure, as Montreal went to overtime in four-straight contests before Tuesday's regulation victory, earning a 3-0-1 record in those games.

The 22-year-old Pacioretty is just one of Montreal’s young guns that has been performing well for the Canadiens as of late. Forward Benoit Pouliot, 24, has been absolutely clutch in his past two games. He had the Penguins’ number when Pittsburgh traveled to the Bell Centre last week, scoring the game-tying goal in regulation and the lone shootout tally for either team to give Montreal a 2-1 win. Pouliot then scored the game-winning goal to lift his team past the Rangers on Tuesday.

Their veteran leadership has been chipping in steadily as well. Captain Brian Gionta scored his team-leading 15th goal against Boston to give him three in his past four games, while Scott Gomez also tallied to give him 22 points (6G-16A) on the season.

Their defensive corps, however, is hurting. In addition to losing Andrei Markov, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 13, the Habs’ blue line has taken another blow with the loss of stalwart Josh Gorges, who had played a team-high 150 straight games before being sidelined on Dec. 26.  The 26-year-old defenseman will be out for the remainder of the 2010-11 campaign to fix a severed anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

But there’s a silver lining for Montreal, as the absences of Markov and Gorges opens the door for rookie P.K. Subban to log more minutes and develop alongside veteran blueliner and former Penguin Hal Gill. The acquisition of James Wisniewski from the New York Islanders on Dec. 28 has certainly helped as well, as the defenseman has six points (2G-4A) in his first five games with Montreal and 12 points (3G-9A) in his last 11 games.

Goaltender Carey Price seems to be building momentum, as the 23-year-old has won both of his last two starts after dropping eight of his previous 10 games. He made 27 saves in the win over Boston and 31 stops against the Penguins (including stoning all five shooters in the shootout).
  • Entering Wednesday’s game, Pittsburgh has lost back-to-back regulation games for the fifth time this season. But the good news is that each time the Penguins have lost two in a row, they’ve responded by going on impressive runs. After losing two games on Nov. 3 and 5, Pittsburgh responded with a 15-1-1 run. After dropping a pair on Dec. 14 and 15, the Penguins went 4-1-1 in their next six games.
  • The Penguins are 4-2-1 at the Bell Centre over the past seven seasons. They’ve recorded at least one win there in four of the past five seasons following the lockout, including a pair of sweeps in 2007-08 and 2005-06.
  • Pittsburgh has been rolling on the road, going 8-2-2 in their past 12 contests. They’ve surrendered two or fewer goals in nine of those games with a goals-against average of 1.95.
  • The Penguins and the Canadiens still have the two best penalty killing units in the NHL as of Monday. The Habs currently hold the No. 1 position with a success rate of 87.7 percent, allowing 21 power-play goals on 171 shorthanded situations. Despite allowing the Bruins to score a pair of power-play goals on Monday, the Penguins aren’t far behind. Their penalty kill is clicking at an 87.2-percent PK rate, allowing 24 goals on 187 power plays.
  • Chris Conner has been one of the Penguins’ good-luck charms since he was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 10. The fast forward has been on the ice for five of the Penguins’ last 11 goals over the previous four games, contributing a goal, an assist and a plus-5 rating. The Penguins have produced a 19-5-3 record with Conner in the lineup so far this season. To top it off, two of his five tallies have been game-winning goals.
  • Arron Asham, who scored the lone Penguins goal in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal on Jan. 6, began his career with the Canadiens after being selected by the organization in the third round (71st overall) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. Asham went on to play parts of four seasons with the organization from 1998-02, actually making his NHL debut against the Penguins on Nov. 28, 1998.


Learn From Monday: It’s obviously a devastating blow when a team scores four goals in the last 3:23 of regulation to win a game 4-2, especially when the Penguins had a 2-0 lead entering the final minutes of play. But dwelling too much on what coulda-shoulda-woulda been will only hinder the Penguins. They can’t play too conservatively in fear of giving up bad goals – they still need to play a 70-30 game as Bylsma likes. The Penguins know what they need to do in order to tighten up their game. Now they just have to go out and execute, with the memory of Monday’s haunting loss motivating but not stifling them. Wednesday is a new game and another chance to turn things around.

Play Patient:
The Penguins’ offense has been struggling to produce on a consistent basis, scoring just three goals in their past three games after an eight-goal outburst against Tampa Bay on Jan. 5. But despite Pittsburgh’s offensive woes, trying to force plays that aren’t there will be their kryptonite against a deep Canadiens squad backstopped by Carey Price. As long as the Penguins stick to their game plan for a full 60 minutes and work within their system, good things will come as a result.
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
C Sidney Crosby, mild concussion (indefinitely)
F Eric Godard, eye (IR)
D Andrei Markov, knee (out for the season)
D Josh Gorges, knee (indefinitely)
Crosby (32) Gionta (15)
Crosby (34) Wisniewski (23)
Crosby (66) Plekanec (33)
Engelland (76) Lapierre (63)
3 tied (+20) Kostitsyn (+8)
Crosby (10) Cammalleri (5)
Adams/Cooke (2)
Three tied with (1)
Fleury (18-11-2) Price (21-14-3)
Johnson (2.04) Auld (1.74)
Johnson (.927) Auld (.941)

Mike Rupp - Rupp had one of his best games of the season Monday against Boston, opening the scoring when he lifted a nifty backhander that somehow found its way under the arm of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with 8:21 left in the second. That goal broke a 12-game scoreless drought for the Penguins forward, who now has four goals on the season. He was a force all over the ice while playing on the third line with Max Talbot and Chris Conner, tying for the team lead with six hits and blasting two shots through 11:48 of ice time.
Max Pacioretty - The third-year forward was a one-man wrecking ball in Montreal’s 3-2 comeback victory over Boston on Jan. 8, assisting on Brian Gionta’s game-tying goal with 47.7 seconds left in regulation before netting the winning goal with 2:17 left in overtime. Pacioretty played a season-high 19:03 minutes, leading the team with six shots and five hits in the Canadiens’ 3,000th home game. He has seven points (3G-4A) in 12 games since being called up from Montreal’s top minor-league affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.

Penguins Report: 1/11/11   
Aftermath: Bruins 4, Penguins 2
Theissen, Jeffrey Named to AHL Eastern Conference All-Star Team
Gibson Is Top-Ranked North American Goaltender For 2011 NHL Entry Draft
 Penguins Recall Forward Dustin Jeffrey  

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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