Coming off an embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Montreal Canadiens will look to rebound tonight in Philadelphia. The Flyers, meanwhile, dropped a 7-2 decision to the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks last night.
The loss was a setback for Montreal as they try to keep pace with the Eastern Conference leaders in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Going into Thursday’s action, the Habs sit second in the Atlantic Division with 41 points, three back from the Bruins who also hold a game in hand.
Carey Price allowed four goals on 16 shots before being yanked in favour of Peter Budaj. The switch proved futile, as the Canadiens failed to put a puck past Jones, who went on to post his second consecutive shutout in only his third career NHL game.
After a slow start to the season, Philadelphia is working their way back up the standings. A win in Chicago would have put the Flyers within four points of the eighth place Toronto Maple Leafs. Philly got goals from Jakub Voracek and Steve Downie, but the high-powered Blackhawks proved too much them and Ray Emery. After surrendering the sixth goal of the game early in the third period, Emery was pulled from the net. Steve Mason finished the game and is the likely starter against Montreal tonight.
The game marks the second meeting between the two clubs this season. Montreal took the first match 4-1 with goals from Brian Gionta, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher, and Rene Bourque. Lecavalier ruined Price’s shutout bid while Emery picked up the loss.
Keys to Victory:
1) Score Early: The Habs will have the fresher legs and should seek to set the tone early. While managing 17 shots in the first period against the Kings’ rookie netminder Martin Jones, the Canadiens failed to score. Montreal was deflated by a late 2-0 goal in the first period by Los Angeles. The Flyers are playing their second game in as many nights and an early deficit could take them off their game.
2) Crash the Net, Protect the Net: The Canadiens were victim to uncalled goalie interference calls in their loss to L.A., particularly on Alec Martinez’ 3-0 goal. The defense will need to do a better job protecting Price tonight with the likes of Scott Hartnell in bright orange. Douglas Murray will likely draw into the lineup in place of Francis Bouillon to help facilitate this. So too will the Habs forwards need park themselves in Steve Mason’s blue paint at the other end of the ice. Montreal may have put 31 on the Kings’ young goaltender, but seldom did he have trouble seeing the puck.
3) Avoid the Rough Stuff: Brandon Prust is one fight away from number 100 in his NHL career and the Flyers are as good a team as any to get it. Jay Rosehill is the likely dance partner, but Philadelphia has a number of willing combatants in their lineup. Montreal needs to avoid falling prey to Philly’s intimidation game and refrain from getting involved in too many scruffs. Rather, it will be in the Habs interest to dictate the play with their speed game and wear the Flyers down.
Prust – Plekanec – Gionta
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Briere
Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
Moen – White – Parros
Hartnell – Giroux – Voracek
Raffl – Schenn – Simmonds
Read – Couturier – Downie
Rosehill – Hall – Rinaldo