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Pittsburgh vs. Montreal Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (24-22-5-53) at Montreal Canadiens (28-16-6-62)

Where: Bell Centre
When: Tuesday, February 3, 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
Season Series: Montreal recorded a 3-2 victory in the only previous meeting between the two clubs this season, Dec. 27 at Mellon Arena. 



Pens vs. Canadiens 12/27
Target Price: Canadiens netminder Carey Price essentially stole a victory for the Canadiens in their first meeting in Pittsburgh. But an ankle injury forced him to miss eight games. Since his return, he hasn’t been as sharp as he was earlier in the season. Price is 1-4-0 since his return and the Penguins can use that to their advantage.

Lateral Puck Movemen
t: Price has had trouble moving laterally in his crease with the frailty of his ankle. If Pittsburgh can use some east-west passes, Price may get caught out of position and they may find an open net to shoot into. 
The Montreal Canadiens are back. After a couple of down seasons, Montreal roared back last season with a 47-25-10 record for 104 points to finish tops in the Eastern Conference and claim the Northeast Division title. The Canadiens play a wide-open style and scored 262 goals last year, most in the NHL.

The Canadiens were fire starters at the beginning of their 100th season, losing only once in regulation in their first 11 games (8-1-2). Head coach Guy Carbonneau pulled off an impressive 14-game run with an 11-2-1 mark. However, the Canadiens have limped to a 1-5-0 record after that successful stretch and will try to right the ship against the Penguins.
The Canadiens biggest loss in free agency was the defection of offensively talented defenseman Mark Streit, the team’s third-leading scorer last season. Forwards Michael Ryder and Bryan Smolinski also left in free agency. General manager Bob Gainey sent Montreal’s first-round pick (25th overall) and a second-round selection in 2009 to the Calgary Flames for sniper Alex Tanguay. The Canadiens also picked up goaltender Marc Denis, forward Robert Lang and tough-guy Georges Laraque.
Montreal’s offense hasn’t been as productive as last year, when it scored the most goals in the league. Through 50 games this campaign, the Canadiens are averaging 2.94 goals per game to rank 11th in the NHL.

The team suffered a huge blow when team-leading goal scorer Robert Lang was injured in the third period of Sunday’s afternoon game against the Boston Bruins at Bell Centre. Lang was transferred to the Montreal General Hospital where he underwent successful surgery to repair a severed Achilles tendon and will be out indefinitely. Lang is second on the Canadiens with 39 points and tops the team with 18 goals. Alex Kovalev is third on the team with 35 points on 13 goals and 22 assists but has been benched in two of his last three games by Carbonneau for his effort.

Andrei Kostitsyn torched the Penguins in their previous meeting. The Russian winger netted a hat trick and scored all three goals for Montreal in the 3-2 victory. He has recorded 17 goals and 13 assists for 30 points on the campaign. Alex Tanguay had been the Habs most consistent player this year and was among the Canadiens' top scorers until suffering a shoulder injury at the end of December. Tanguay hasn’t seen any action in 2009 with the injury but still posted 26 points in 34 games. Saku Koivu netted eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points but has only played 33 games due to a foot/ankle injury.
The Canadiens have a veteran group on the blue line. They’ve allowed 2.78 goals against per game this season, ranking 12th in the NHL. Andrei Markov is a top-tier defenseman in the NHL and is off to a great start this season. He leads the team in plus-minus rating (+9) and in scoring (40 points on seven goals and 33 assists). Markov’s 40 points are the most by an NHL defenseman this year. He’s having his best season at the age of 30 and is the key fixture on the Habs’ back end. Mike Komisarek is maturing into a quality defensive defenseman and has developed a good rapport alongside Markov. At 6-foot-4, 242 pounds, the 27-year old is an imposing presence and has regularly defended opposing team’s top forwards.

Roman Hamrlik signed prior to last season and has been a valuable addition for Montreal. Josh Gorges seems to have found a home with the Canadiens though he is currently injured. Veteran Patrice Brisebois is playing in his 16th season with the Canadiens and was with the Habs during their 1993 Stanley Cup season. Despite coming off of two injury-plagued seasons, Brisebois looks healthy at the tender age of 38. Francis Bouillon is a strong player with a low center of gravity. The New York City native packs 198 pounds onto his 5-foot-8 frame and isn’t afraid to get physical.
The development of Carey Price is a major bright spot for the Canadeins. Price was the fifth-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and has made the leap to the NHL sooner than expected. He’s built on a phenomenal rookie season with a solid effort on the current campaign. Price was voted to start the All-Star Game in Montreal at only 21 years old.

Jaroslav Halak backed up Price following Huet’s deadline trade with less than 20 NHL games under his belt. Gainey decided to add some depth and a veteran backup for Price this season and acquired Montreal native Marc Denis. However, Halak earned a roster spot out of camp and Denis has become the team’s third option and is currently in the AHL.
Price emerged on the scene last year and stole the Canadiens’ starting job. He played so well last season that Montreal felt comfortable enough to trade Cristobal Huet and rode the 20-year-old Price into the postseason. Though he stumbled in the playoffs, the learning experience will only make him stronger this time around. As a rookie, Price recorded a 24-12-3 record with a 2.56 goals against average and .920 save percentage. Price has been just as impressive this season with a 17-8-5 mark, 2.53 GAA and .913 save percentage. He’s a big goaltender who plays a very sound technique. However, a recent groin injury sidelined him for eight games and he has a 1-4-0 record since his return. Plus, he has “Krunk Juice” written on his goalie stick (no real relevance but I found it entertaining).
“It’s like the playoffs. You have to move on to the next game because the next game is the biggest one. That’s not any different than in the playoffs. We’re getting close. We’re there.”
- Head coach Michel Therrien
Defenseman Andre Markov has points in 11 of his last 12 games. 

Author: Sam Kasan

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