The Montreal Canadiens continue their four game western road swing tonight as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes. The Habs will be looking for a better all around effort after a lackluster 6-4 defeat to the San Jose Sharks on Monday night. Tonight marks the second game of the road trip, with the final two games on Saturday and Sunday. The Canadiens have not lost to Phoenix since December 9, 1998- a span of eight games. Over those eight games Montreal has reeled off five wins and three ties.
The Coyotes are coming off an impressive 2-1 over the Dallas Stars last night. Ilya Bryzgalov backstopped the Coyotes to another impressive victory in their quest to qualify for the playoffs. Phoenix is in fourth place in the Pacific division well behind the top three teams. In terms of the conference, the Coyotes currently sit in tenth spot, only three points behind the eighth and final playoff position. With a home record of 14-15-3 Phoenix has been a less than stellar team, at home, something Montreal maybe able to take advantage of. Coach Wayne Gretzky has a budding young star in Peter Mueller, an offensive threat that Montreal will have to contain. Phoenix goes in to the game tonight with no major injury concerns.
Montreal looks to rebound and play a better game defensively. The Habs were exposed badly at the back on Monday allowed six goals. Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov looked totally out of sync and Price looked way out of his league. Price will get a chance to rebound tonight however as he was named starter yesterday afternoon. Again, the Habs lineup looks to remain unchanged as recent success has them sitting precariously in second place in the conference. Steve Begin looks to be the only injury concern, as he remains listed as day-to-day and will be a game time decision.
Keys to Victory: Phoenix is a team that relies heavily on Ilya Bryzgalov, whom they picked up off waivers earlier in the season. Before last nights contest, Bryzgalov had a 1.30 goals-against average in his last four games. In order for the Habs to be successful they will need to pepper him with shots and get some traffic in front of the net. Having said this there is a good chance that Michael Tellqvist will get the nod in goal for Phoenix tonight. Another key tonight is to not take Phoenix too lightly. Although on paper this should be an easy win for Montreal, Phoenix possesses a very skilled young team and this was shown last night as they knocked off the Pacific division leaders Dallas. A better effort defensively and in goal will also be needed for Montreal. Having their feet on the ground for a few days out west will no doubt have helped the young Habs get used to the time difference and environment.
The game can be seen at 9pm EST on RDS or locally on AZTV. The game can also be heard in Montreal on CJAD in English or CKAC in French.