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Notes: Red Wings must solve Canadiens hex

Detroit has lost nine in a row to Montreal

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

MONTREAL -- Halloween may be three weeks away, but for the Red Wings, they're about to enter their own private house of horror known as Bell Centre, the home of the Montreal Canadiens.

When the Wings take the ice against the Canadiens on Thursday night, they'll be trying to achieve something they haven't accomplished since Dec. 4, 2007 -- beat the Canadiens in regulation in Montreal.

 

Call it a curse, bad luck or just one of those inexplicable things which occurs in pro sports, but the Canadiens have been a tough knockout for the Red Wings.

Detroit's last win against Montreal was a 2-1 victory in overtime on March 21, 2017. Since then, the Wings have lost nine in row to the Canadiens while being outscored, 48-18.

Montreal is 19-3-1 in its past 23 games versus Detroit and at Bell Centre they've won four in a row, outscoring the Wings, 24-7.

In their last 14 home games against the Red Wings, the Canadiens are 11-0-3.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We're going to have to play a good defensive game."- @Dylanlarkin39 | #LGRW pic.twitter.com/IKqA5cANX7

"We've had some terrible nights in there. That's just the reality of it. They've been painful to endure," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after Wednesday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "But every game is kind of its own deal and we got to go there and play great hockey. That's the reality. Every night in this league, you got to play great hockey.

"(Sunday) night, we played great for large periods of the game but not for 60 minutes and you don't win. So we got to go there and be ready to play great hockey for 60 minutes."

Blashill has tried to discuss Detroit's woes against the Canadiens with the Wings, but he's unsure whether he'll go that route again before Thursday's game.

"I've talked about it in the past, whether I talk about it this time or not, I don't know. It didn't work last time I talked about it," he said. "It's a new year, a whole bunch of different guys. The bigger focus is just playing good hockey and if anything, it's correcting some of the mistakes we made (Sunday) night."

Thursday will be the home opener for the Canadiens (1-0-2), who will playing in back-to-back contests after dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to the Sabres Wednesday night in Buffalo.

Backup netminder Keith Kinkaid was the Canadiens' starter, so the Wings will face superstar Carey Price in net, a tall order and terrific challenge for the Wings.

Blashill was asked if Montreal would be a good early-season measuring stick for Detroit, especially if the Canadiens score first.

"Somebody asked me after Game 1 (Saturday in Nashville) about a measuring stick, I think every night is a measuring stick in this league," he said. "So you have a chance to go there, they're a team that missed the playoffs by one point, so they're a team that believes they're in the mix for the playoffs. So let's go there and see where we're at, in a building we haven't had success in.

"I hope we get up by one. But even if we get up by one or down by one, we got to play for 60 minutes. If there's a lesson from (Sunday) night, that's the biggest part of the lesson."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "Frustration does nothing, we have to come out tonight and play our best hockey."- Coach Blashill | #LGRW pic.twitter.com/00Ia9cGYRr

Most of the Red Wings are aware of the situation against the Canadiens, but they try not to dwell on it.

"To be honest, we try not to think about it too much. We know they do, but we want to have the game that's going to give us the win, that's all that matters," Anthony Mantha said. "We need a strong start. It's easy to say, but that's the key, once we get to a strong start, it's easier to keep going after that and play that full 60 minutes. It's hard to come back against them if they take the lead."

Darren Helm knows the team will address the Canadiens' dominance over the Red Wings, but he's encouraged with how the Wings have begun the season, which could work in Detroit's favor on Thursday night.

"Coming into tonight's game, if we do what we do, what we've done in the last eight of nine periods, I think we have a chance of turning a new chapter and getting some wins out here," Helm said. "That first goal, it usually is a pretty big one as far as momentum, especially for a home team to get it and use the momentum of their home opener, they're going to have lots of energy.

"If we can do anything we can to slow the excitement down in the building, I think it would be a little more of an advantage to us."

MANTHA KNOWS WHAT'S COMING:  Mantha may be used to having the opposition key on him during games, but with his line's recent success dating back to late last season, he's aware it's about to take on a whole new level for himself, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.

But he isn't too concerned about the attention.

"We had to face them (top lines and D pairs) last year also, well Christmas until the end of the year, we were playing against their first lines, we were playing against their best defensemen and I think we showed everyone we could do it," Mantha said. "We played against the best pairing on D in Nashville and the best pairing (every) night and I think we're just ready for it."

Consistency is what Mantha believes his line has to focus on collectively and individually to maintain their torrid start and elevate his line to elite status.

"That's only one game, right? (Sunday's Dallas victory). There's (79) more and I want to prove to everyone I can play hockey and that's my mindset from now on is to keep going and impress people as much as I can," Mantha said. "We're not going to have three-point nights every night, maybe it's going to be a grind to get one goal for our line. We have to make sure we win every match, meaning our line against the top line on the other side and if we don't get scored on and we only score one, it's still a win, you know. That's our mindset going through and hopefully we can execute."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "For us we just want to shut it down, have a great start, and have momentum on our side."- @antomantha8 | #LGRW pic.twitter.com/b4qDUwXeVq

Blashill has seen the progression in Mantha's game and is convinced after years of peaks and valleys, the big power forward is ready to ascend into the NHL's top echelon of players.

"He gets a chance to prove it every night. Do I think he's ready? Yeah, I do think he's ready. I think he's ready mentally. I think his physical maturity is to a point where he's ready to do that. He's put on lots of good muscle over the past couple of years," Blashill said. "He's a big, big man now who skates really well and has a good shot and real good hands and can make a pass. He's got all the tools to be real successful.

"I also think mentally, he's been through ups and downs and I think he's been through some tough times. I've said this before, if you can stay above water and get through those tough times, you're a better off, more prepared person after. I think he's done that. But it doesn't matter what I think. He gets a chance to prove it every night. It's an every night league and he'll get a chance to prove it again tonight."

You can sense a quiet confidence in Mantha, which was missing when he was trying to navigate his way through the league the last few years. He is at peace with himself and is finally in a good place.

"Yeah, totally, I think it's the best place I've been in an NHL locker room and I have plenty of times to keep rolling," he said.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "The first thing is the mind set. If you go into the game thinking you're going to win then you're already on the right track."- @Tarzy17 | #LGRW pic.twitter.com/w7x8UBASgT

HIROSE'S SHOT BECOMING AN ASSET: When he arrived from Michigan State University last season, Red Wings players raved about the passing ability of Taro Hirose, but the former Spartans forward knew he needed to improve his shot if he really wanted to become an impact player.

Hirose spent all summer working on developing his shot and though many within the organization have noticed a marked improvement in his shot, Hirose is still trying to find the balance between when to pass and when to shoot.

"I'm going to play the way I play and the reason why I got here," Hirose said. "But at the same time, looking to shoot and continuing to tell myself to shoot is a big part of my game to open up passing opportunities as well."

Part of figuring things out is just becoming comfortable with your environment, something he feels more at ease with every game he plays.

"Yeah, feeling better each and every game. The first game was sort of a learning point, tough team in Nashville, and Dallas as well," Hirose said. "Just trying to feel more comfortable in the systems and with the guys I'm playing with."

In three games played this season, Hirose has an assist, is minus-1 with an ice time average of 14:14 per game.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Montr��al tonight! #DETvsMTL #LGRW📺: @FOXSportsDet 📻: @971theticketxyt pic.twitter.com/WLTNyN5FT9

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