The Montreal Canadiens have been going through a rough patch lately.
Since roaring out to a 12-5-1 record over their first 18 games, the Canadiens have struggled to maintain a .500 record since, going 7-7-1 over 15 games. The Habs' latest setback was a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday in Denver, with the game marking the first of seven on a grueling road trip.
The Habs roll into Dallas tonight to take on the Stars, winners of two straight including a 4-3 overtime victory over the Red Wings on Sunday. To say that the Stars are hot right now would be an understatement as they have gone 10-2-2 in their last 14 games to roar to the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Stars currently have 43 points in the standings, one back of Detroit for first overall in the West. They are also currently tied for third overall in the league with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Yes, you read that right, the Thrashers.
The Stars offense is led by the brilliant efforts of Brad Richards. His 38 points (15G, 23A) tie him for sixth overall in league scoring with Daniel Sedin and Alexander Ovechkin, one point back of Pavel Datsyuk and Corey Perry.
Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, James Neal and Brendan Morrow account for 58 of 95 goals the Stars have scored this season, or 61 percent of their offense. As such, the Habs would do well to try and shut down these players and to avoid the costly turnovers that have been so present over the last few weeks.
The Canadiens power play has come to life over the last month and now sits 11th overall in the league at 19.1 percent while their PK is still tops in the league at 87.9 percent. Dallas, on the other hand, has not been very good in the special teams department with a 16.7 percent power play (18th overall) and an 80.3 percent penalty kill (22nd overall).
If the Canadiens attack with speed and draw penalties they should be able to press their advantage.
The Stars are a team that tends to win tight, one-goal games as their plus-five goal differential demonstrates. So with the Habs likely to employ a neutral zone trap, tonight's game should be a close, tightly contested match.
Carey Price will get the start for the Habs, his 31st of the season, and he will be pushing for a league leading 19th win. There is no official word yet on who will be in the net for Dallas, but with two day off since their last game you would expect Kari Lehtonen to get his 25th start of the season.
The puck drops at around 9:10 pm EST.
1:18 pm EST - RDS is reporting that both Yannick Weber and Andrei Kostitsyn will be healthy scratches for tonight's game. Lars Eller looks like he will slot in on the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri.
Check out the latest episode of Canadiens Coronary hosted by The Team 990's Gary Whittaker and Nick Murdocco, featuring yours truly. In this episode, we discuss the CBC's perceived anti-Habs bias.
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