DETROIT -- The Red Wings have struggled this season but oddly enough, not against the Montreal Canadiens.
On Oct. 10, the Wings went to Montreal and snapped an eight-game winless streak at the Bell Centre with a 4-2 victory.
On Dec. 14, the Wings again beat the Canadiens in Montreal, 2-1.
"They're different. They're both two wins," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the team's optional morning skate at Little Caesars Arena. "The last time we played them, we had a 2-0 lead late, we scored the empty-netter, but I thought that was a different game than the first game. The first game we played really really well. They were coming off a back-to-back similar to tonight. They were probably a little bit tired but I thought we played pretty well. The second game, we scored early and we played good, I wouldn't say it was one of our best games, though. We just got to keep working on playing as good a hockey as we can.
"I think we've done a pretty good job of defending overall here lately until we shoot ourselves in the foot. We got to make sure we are really good defensively against this team. We got to make sure … the one thing we've done the last couple times against this team that we hadn't done prior is we won the net-front battle. That's always an important thing against Montreal is to win that net-front battle at both nets. We got to make sure we do a really good job of that."
It marked the first time since the 1972-73 season in which Detroit won multiple games in Montreal.
"We've had some of our better games against Montreal," alternate captain Justin Abdelkader said. "We try to play an up-tempo, fast type of game and that's what Montreal likes to play as well. Try to stay above them. I think we, like I've talked about, not trying to force plays, and we've played simple hockey against them. Any time you're on the road, you simplify. Sometimes it's easier to start a game and get the game going for you when you're keeping things simple.
"That's something we can even take here on home ice, not trying to force plays. Keep the play in front of us. As a group, we just gotta do a better job of if we get a goal scored on us, or two goals scored on us, hey, we gotta - it's next-shift mentality. We can't get too high or too low. You gotta go out and try to win your next shift."
One factor in both of those victories was goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was in the starter's net for the optional morning skate.
Bernier made 33 saves in the Oct. 10 game and then was even more spectacular in the Dec. 14 game, stopping 42 of the 43 shots he faced.
The Canadiens are slightly different now due to injuries to forwards Brendan Gallagher, who is eligible to come off injured reserve tonight, Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and Matthew Peca.
But they just added Ilya Kovalchuk Jan. 3 and he played Monday night with Montreal at home against the Winnipeg Jets.
"I thought Kovalchuk played well," Blashill said. "It certainly looked like he's energized, obviously getting good opportunity. I'm hoping they can't work out the chemistry on the power play 'til after tonight but they have lots of weapons there and he obviously adds another real big weapon.
"They're a team that always works, they defend well, they're very well-coached. I think Claude (Julien) gets the most out of his teams and I think is doing a really good job with this team as well. It's a hard night every night in this league. I don't know if everybody always gives credit to how hard the league is every single night. We all want our teams to win at such a high level but the other team's competing real hard, too. It'll be a hard challenge here for sure."
Kovalchuk registered one assist in the 3-2 loss to the Jets.
The Canadiens' leading scorer is former Wing Tomas Tatar, who has 16 goals and 21 assists, both team highs, in 43 games.
"He just has a knack for scoring, being around the net," Abdelkader said. "Obviously he has a great shot. I'm really happy for him. He's such a great person, a fun guy to be around. He brings a lot of energy to the team. I think he's really thrived in Montreal. He's really fit in with that team and that group. He's a dangerous player offensively. He just has a knack for scoring and a knack for being around the net. I believe he's leading their team in points but that doesn't surprise me."
BOBBLEHEAD NIGHT: The Wings have lots of popular promotional nights but among the most popular are the bobblehead giveaways. Tonight against the Canadiens, the Wings are giving the first 7,500 fans a Jimmy Howard bobblehead.
But what does the man himself think of his bobblehead likeness?
"I like it all, it's great. It's cool for the kids," Howard said. "My boys love it, they love collecting them. Just another one to add to their collection, I guess."
James IV is eight years old, Henry is five and they're now old enough to appreciate the bobbleheads.
That might not have been the case for Howard's first one, which was in 2014 for the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.
"I don't remember what the last one really looks like," Howard said. "I'd have to go home and look on the boys' nightstand."
The next and last bobblehead night will also come against the Canadiens, on Feb. 18, when Andreas Athanasiou is the featured player.