The Montreal Canadiens will be in Nashville Tuesday night to face Peter Forsberg and the Predators. Forsberg, who was acquired last week by Nashville, has yet to register a point with his new team in the two games he has played. Meanwhile, there is uncertainty to whether or not Christopher Higgins, who scored two first period goals against Washington last Tuesday in a 5-3 win, will be well enough to play. The winger suffered an “upper-body” early in the third period in that same game.
The Canadiens will look to add another win to their current two game winning streak. It’s a modest streak at that, but considering that Montreal had dropped six straight prior to their 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, they’ll take what they can get. Every game is a must win for the seventh place Habs from here until the end of the season. With only two points separating 7th and 10th place in the Eastern Conference, a single loss can drop you 2 to 3 spots in the standings. Montreal benefited from this with their win against the Caps which saw them jump from 10th to 7th.
The Nashville Predators currently sit third overall in the NHL after both the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings won games Tuesday and Wednesday respectively to pass Nashville. The Predators have had some rest, having only last played on Monday, a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Jean-Pierre Dumont opened the scoring for the Preds with his 14th goal of the season that he scored on a penalty shot. Dumont then added an assist on Jason Arnott’s goal only 39 seconds into the second period. Scott Hartnell would add two more goals in a span of 23 seconds 5 minutes later, while Oleg Sapyrkin broke Tomas Vokoun’s shutout bid with less than three minutes left in the game with his 13th of the season.
Both Higgins and Michael Ryder had two goals apiece in the Habs’ 5-3 win over the Capitals. The Habs came out strong in the first period and were awarded with plenty of power play opportunities. They used them to their advantaged and scored three powerplay goals in the first period. However, Washington showed signs of life in the second period and got two quick goals from Brian Sutherby and Jamie Heward. Both goals, which were scored 20 seconds apart, were tipped in front of the net leaving Jaroslav Halak with little chance on either goal.
Ryder and Alexander Semin would exchange pretty goals later in the second, Ryder short handed and Semin with the man advantage. Ryder’s second shorthanded goal of the season set a new franchise record for the Canadiens as the 16th shothanded goal this season. Montreal would shut down the Caps in the third period while Garth Murray added an empty net goal for good measure, his first of the season.
None of Montreal’s walking wounded should return to the line-up against the Predators, other than Higgins. Though, there is some good news from defenseman Craig Rivet. The 32-year-old seems to have recovered from pneumonia and accompanied the team to Nashville. Don’t expect him to lace up for the game though; the move is likely to let him get some practices in with the team before his scheduled return on Saturday night to face the New York Islanders on Long Island. Meanwhile, Steve Begin (broken foot), Alex Kovalev (elbow), and Cristobal Huet (hamstring surgery) will not play anytime in the immediate future.
The next three games are very important for the Habs because they are the final three games before the trade deadline next Tuesday. The result of their matches before the deadline could very well determine whether or not Gainey will be a buyer or seller by Monday evening. The Habs’ biggest match ups will be Saturday against the Islanders, and Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams are currently two points back from the Habs and hold two games in hand. Needless to say, winning both of those matches is an absolute must to keep their playoff hopes alive.