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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.
Goals may very well be at a premium on Sunday night as the Habs (who allow the second fewest goals per game) host the Devils (who allow the fewest). Both squads are about as rested as they can be as well as they are the only teams in the league to have played just three games so far this year. Montreal will have a slightly different lineup in this one as they will be missing Max Pacioretty who underwent an emergency appendectomy on Saturday.
Lars Eller will return to the lineup although it's unknown if he will slide into Pacioretty's spot or if he'll be placed on the fourth line with others moving up. I suspect the latter will be the case at the beginning; I wouldn't be surprised to see Travis Moen, despite his early struggles, play in Pacioretty's place. We'll know the official lines closer to game time. We will likely get a look at a pair of 2012 first round selections as not only will Alex Galchenyuk be in Montreal's lineup but 29th overall selection Stefan Matteau, reported by some as a potential trade-up target for the Habs back at the draft, has been a regular for the Devils early on. Interestingly enough, it's believed that if Matteau returns to junior, former Hab Mathieu Darche will be signed to take his place in the lineup.
Martin Brodeur is likely to get the start for New Jersey and to say his career numbers against Montreal are dazzling would be quite the understatement. The Montreal native has played in 66 games against the Habs (more than any other non-divisional opponent), posting a 43-18-5 record with a 1.79 GAA (a career best against any opponent) and a .931 SV% (tied for second best against any opponent). He will be aiming for a fourth straight victory to start the season, a feat he has not accomplished since 1995-96. Carey Price is expected to start for the Canadiens; his three games below .500 record is his lowest against any Eastern Conference opponent.
On the injury front, not only will Montreal be without Pacioretty (for 3-5 weeks) but they will also be missing defenceman Tomas Kaberle who left practice early Saturday after getting hit by the puck in the face. As a result, Yannick Weber will make his season debut. Petteri Nokelainen (back) and Aaron Palushaj (shoulder) also remain out with injury. For the Devils, Adam Henrique (thumb) and Matt Corrente (shoulder) have both yet to play this year and are out for this contest.
|New Jersey (3-0-0)||Montreal (2-1-0)|
|Tedenby - Zajac
Elias - Zubrus - Clarkson
Bernier - Carter - Gionta
Barch - Matteau - Josefson
Plekanec - Gionta
Moen - Desharnais - Cole
Prust - Galchenyuk - Gallagher
Eller - White - Armstrong
1) Forward Production: As much as it has been nice to revel in the early season success of Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz, the fact that those two are the teams' top point getters is a little disconcerting. A better attack from up front would be beneficial tonight.
2) Discipline: This was improved against the struggling Capitals but against a more fundamentally sound Devils team, it will be put to the test again. New Jersey's powerplay is struggling early on, don't give them a chance to improve it.
3) Avoid Early Deficits: Although this isn't the pure trapping Devils from the Jacques Lemaire era, they still will clog the neutral zone if they get the lead. Keeping the crowd in the game through the early stages, something that will be challenging if Montreal falls behind early, will be helpful.
Puck drop is at 6 PM EST and can be seen on RDS.
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