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Pittsburgh vs. Montreal Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (27-25-6-60) vs. Montreal Canadiens (30-21-7-67)

: Mellon Arena
When: Thursday, February 19, 7:00 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 leads the series with a 2-0-0 mark against the Penguins. In the previous meeting at Mellon Arena, Montreal recorded a 3-2 victory Dec. 27.



  Pens vs. Canadiens 2/3
   Trib Total Media Minute
Max Talbot
Ryan Whitney
Coach Bylsma
Sidney Crosby
Jordan Staal
Target Price: Canadiens netminder Carey Price essentially stole a victory for the Canadiens in their first meeting with Pittsburgh and has never lost to the Penguins. 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 2-7-1 since his return and the Penguins can try to exploit that.

Lateral Puck Movement:
Price has had trouble moving laterally in his crease with the frailty of his ankle. If Pittsburgh can use some east-west puck movement, they may find an open net to shoot into. 
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’s pulled off an impressive 14-game run in parts of December and January with an 11-2-1 mark. However, the team has fallen on some tough times after that point. The Habs have only won three games (3-10-1) in their past 14 contests and are slipping in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
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. In the latest in-season trade, Gainey sent a few draft picks to Atlanta for defenseman Mathieu Schneider.
Montreal’s offense hasn’t been as productive as last year, when it scored the most goals in the league. Through 58 games this campaign, the Canadiens are averaging 2.90 goals per game to rank 13th in the NHL.

The team suffered a huge blow when then team-leading goal scorer Robert Lang was injured against the Boston Bruins at Bell Centre Feb. 1. Lang was transferred to the Montreal General Hospital where he underwent successful surgery to repair a severed Achilles tendon. He will miss the rest of the regular season but could return in the postseason. Lang is still second on the Canadiens in points (39) and goals (18). Alex Kovalev is third on the team with 39 points on 13 goals and 26 assists but has been benched in some recent games by Carbonneau. In fact, he didn’t even accompany the team on its two-game road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh.

Andrei Kostitsyn torched the Penguins in their previous meetings. The Russian winger netted a hat trick and scored all three goals for Montreal in its 3-2 victory Dec. 27, and added another goal Feb. 3. He has a team-best 21 goals to go with his 14 assists and 35 points. Alex Tanguay had been the Habs most consistent player this year and was among the Canadiens top scores 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 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points but has only played 41 games due to a foot/ankle injury.
The Canadiens have a veteran group on the blue line but the corps has allowed 2.95 goals against per game this season, ranking 20th in the NHL. Andrei Markov is a top-tier defenseman in the NHL and is having a great season. He leads the team in scoring (45 points on seven goals and 38 assists). Markov’s 45 points are the third most by an NHL defenseman. He’s having his best season at the age of 30 and is the key fixture on the Habs’ backend. 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 and leads the team with a plus-8 rating. 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. Veteran Mathieu Schneider, who played with Brisebois and Carbonneau on that ’93 Cup team, was brought in to help the Canadiens fight out of their recent slump.
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 build 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. This season Price has posted an 18-11-6 mark, 2.72 GAA and .906 save percentage. He’s a big goaltender who plays a very sound technique. However, a groin injury sidelined him for eight games and he has a 2-7-1 record since his return.
“Alex's preference was to stay with the team and play, but I could see in his eyes that he agreed with it … We'll talk in the next 48 hours.”
- General manager Bob Gainey told the AP on having Alex Kovalev take a leave of absence
Carey Price’s mother, Lynda, is the chief of the Ulkatcho tribe in northern British Columbia. Price talked to 1,000 native fans following the team’s morning skate Sunday. Price has had success against Pittsburgh, pitching a 4-0-0 record and 2.20 GAA against the Penguins.

Author: Sam Kasan

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