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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
The Canadiens will try to make it a 3 game winning streak when they visit the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for their Thursday game against the New York Islanders. Coming off a 3-0 shutout win against Winnipeg and a 3-2 shootout win against Pittsburgh the Canadiens have a bit of momentum going into this game. However, momentum hasn't really gotten them anywhere so far this season. Want to know the Habs longest unbeaten streak of this season? It is a dismal 4 games early on in the season when they beat the Bruins twice. Momentum has not been something the Habs have really done well at lately. Losing games they should win presents another bad habit.
On paper this is a game they should win. While the Islanders record is slightly better than the Canadiens they are not that far ahead of them in the standings. After beating the 6th place Penguins you would expect the Habs could beat the 11th place New York Islanders. But the likelihood of it actually happening is slim. The Islanders are hot in their last 10 games at a impressive 6-2-2 while the Canadiens have been just 5-4-1. Both teams are banged up but it is Montreal are the far more injured of the two sides. Even without injury Travis Moen is questionable for the game as he just had a child, and congratulations to him for that.
While many consider the Habs to be out of the playoff race - I would agree - this game could greatly improve the Canadiens positioning. A win in this game in regulation would put them ahead of the Islanders in the standings are could see them leap frog a few other teams in the process. A loss on the other hand could see them in last place in the Eastern Conference. The hill is steep as the Habs are currently 10 points out of the 8th place spot currently held by the Ottawa Senators and chances to get ahead will be few and far-between. So if the Habs at all hope to make any sort of move towards the playoffs this is the game to start doing it in.
Overall this game could present several challenges for Montreal. They lost a difficult 4-3 game to the Islanders in their only meeting at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum earlier this season and it turned out to be a huge setback. The Canadiens did recover by defeating the Isles 5-3 at home but this game should be difficult for an already injured Canadiens team. Louis Leblanc will need to step up and fill the place of Travis Moen should he not play in the game. For a rookie of just 18 NHL games those are some fairly big shoes to fill. This should be an interesting test for the Canadiens if nothing else. With the trade deadline looming it might also decide whether some Canadiens stay in Montreal or find themselves packing come February 28th.
Keys to the Game
1. Feed off the momentum
The Canadiens got two big victories in their last two outings. Now switching to the road can they continue that play
2. Get the early goal
The Islanders, particularly Matt Moulson, are very good at getting the opening goal of hockey games. The Canadiens do not deal well when they are behind so beating the Isles to the first one will be crucial.
3. The Right Price
Carey Price has been a key reason why the Habs have been able to get a victory in their last two games. They need to get him all the help they can so that he can duplicate those last two performances and win them another hockey game.