New Jersey Devils vs. Montreal Canadiens: A Preview of Tonight's Matchup

Nicholas SteblenkoContributor IIIDecember 17, 2011

Kovalchuk netted a goal last night against Dallas and will look to repeat tonight in Montreal
Kovalchuk netted a goal last night against Dallas and will look to repeat tonight in MontrealBruce Bennett/Getty Images

Don't look now, but the New Jersey Devils are picking up steam in the Eastern Conference.

Winners of their last three, New Jersey has finally felt some traction underneath their spinning tires as they climb the slippery Eastern Conference leader board. 

Approaching the mid-point of the season, the Devils have a lot to look forward to in these next few weeks.

The return of Travis Zajac gave New Jersey some much needed depth and will allow them to utilize their first line properly. 

With the added scoring threat, teams won't be able to focus solely on stopping the top trio of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Adam Henrique as much, leading to an increase of offense.

Tonight, New Jersey will face a familiar foe, the Montreal Canadiens, a team that beat the Devils just one week ago by a score of 2-1. 

The close contest, played in New Jersey, was the last loss the Devils suffered; it should be good fuel for the fire, helping to keep this hot streak alive.

Martin Brodeur will get the nod tonight; he has been solid in three of his last four starts. 

Brodeur is having what many critics are calling an off year, with a 3.08 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. 

Brodeur will look to keep things going in the right direction against a team that is faltering and dealing with front office drama.

The Canadiens—tied for No. 11 in the Eastern Conference and dead last in the Northeast Division—will be seeing a change behind the bench tonight as head coach Jacques Martin was fired earlier today.

Assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth will be the interim head coach for the remainder of the season in Montreal. 

Cunneyworth, a former player and head coach, will get a tough start to his time in Montreal with the surging Devils.