PENGUINS (30-19-4) vs. CANADIENS (20-24-9)
WHEN: Feb. 7, 2012 - 7:30 pm | WHERE: Bell Centre
|Max Pacioretty has seven goals in his last 10 outings. (Getty Images) |
The Montreal Canadiens snapped a three-game losing streak on Sunday when Carey Price backstopped his team to a 3-0 blanking of Winnipeg. The win allowed Montreal to pull out of last place in the Eastern Conference, but they still remain 11 points out of a playoff spot and they’re on pace to miss the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Habs dug a hole for themselves with a rough first half of the season, causing the organization to resort to a number of different tactics to get the proud Habs back on track. The Canadiens began by removing bench boss Jacques Martin and replacing him with interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, but it didn’t provide the spark they hoped for as Montreal is just 7-11-2 since the change.
GM Pierre Gauthier then traded skilled sniper (and clutch playoff performer) Michael Cammalleri to Calgary last month for sizeable winger Rene Bourque, who produced back-to-back 27-goal seasons from 2009-11. Bourque has just two goals in his nine appearances with the Canadiens while playing right wing on the second line with Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec.
But despite their dismal outlook for the remainder of this season, the silver lining is that Montreal’s lineup is fraught with plenty of developing young talent that’s been contributing to the best of their abilities – and it’s third-year forward Max Pacioretty who is leading the charge with seven goals and 10 points in his last 10 outings. If the Canadiens really are out of the playoff race, expect to see the youngsters continue to get more ice time. But with that being said, Montreal needs to see more from its veterans like Plekanec, Kostitsyn, Scott Gomez and Erik Cole.
Montreal has struggled on the man-advantage this season, as their power play ranks 29th in the NHL. But their penalty kill has been a bright spot in an otherwise disheartening season as it ranks No. 1 in the league. The Canadiens, led by shorthanded specialist Hal Gill, have killed off 89.7 percent of their opponents’ power plays – and chipped in their sixth shorthanded goal of the season on Sunday against the Jets.
CANADIENS: ERIK COLE
Cole produced an outstanding performance against the Penguins in the two teams’ last meeting, where he scored a goal and an assist in Montreal’s 5-4 shootout loss. Overall, he's got four points (2G-2A) in the three meetings between the clubs. The Habs forward may be pointless in his last four outings, but he’s still one of Montreal’s best producers as he’s tied for the team lead with 19 goals. Not only does Cole have great skating ability and a gritty style of play, but he’s got a tireless work ethic that’s sure to be on display Tuesday as he looks to help get his team on the right track. PENGUINS: EVGENI MALKIN
Look no further than Malkin as the Penguin that will spearhead the team’s rebound from their lackluster 5-2 loss in New Jersey on Sunday. Malkin is known to elevate his game when it matters most and has been clutch for the team all season, so don’t expect anything less from ‘Geno’ on Tuesday. It helps that the highly competitive center is already on an offensive roll. With his gorgeous power-play goal against the Devils, Malkin has now scored goals in 11 of his last 14 contests (14 goals total) and has points in 20 of his previous 25 games (20G-17A) dating back to Dec. 8.
A win by the Penguins would give them their first perfect sweep of the Canadiens. On two previous occasions – 1998-99 (3-0-1) and 1992-93 (2-0-1) – they have finished with unbeaten records against Montreal.
Pittsburgh’s 3-0 record against the Canadiens thus far ensures they will finish with a winning record against Montreal for the fifth time in seven seasons. During that span the Penguins are 16-8-3.
The Penguins are 4-1-1 in their last six games at the Bell Centre. In their last three they are 2-0-1.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
has proven to have a short memory when it comes to being pulled from games. Since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Fleury has responded from getting pulled from games to go 9-1-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in his next start. Last season, Fleury went a perfect 3-0 in such situations with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. In ’09-10, Fleury was 6-1-1 with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
Center Jordan Staal
and defenseman Simon Despres
, both working through knee injuries, returned to team practice Monday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Staal and Despres are on similar timeframes for rehabbing their knee injuries and returning to game action. Head coach Dan Bylsma placed each in a 5-10 day period.
However, the team also learned that it will be without forward Tyler Kennedy
, who left Sunday’s game in New Jersey late in the third period after falling awkwardly into the boards, for the foreseeable future as he returned to Pittsburgh to be re-evaluated for a lower-body injury.
(FOR THE FULL DETAILS ON THOSE THREE PLAYERS, CLICK HERE
In addition, Penguins center Sidney Crosby
(diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury
in his neck, which is positive news for all
) skated with his teammates at practice Monday at the Bell Centre, but there has been no change in his status and he has not returned to full team practice.
Crosby, who is still experiencing symptoms, opted to skate with the team as opposed to skating on his own as the lone non-practicing injured player.
(FOR THE FULL DETAILS ON CROSBY, CLICK HERE
F Arron Asham
, illness/concussion-like symptoms (10)
C Sidney Crosby
, concussion-like symptoms (26)
D Simon Despres
, knee (13)
C Jordan Staal
, knee (15)CANADIENS:
F Michael Blunden, lower body (2)
F Brian Gionta, torn biceps (11)
D Andrei Markov, knee (53)
F Travis Moen, upper body (5)
F Petteri Nokelainen, upper body (6)
F Ryan White, lower body (53)