Game preview: Canadiens vs. Columbus

Thursday, 20.03.2014 / 9:05 AM NHL.com

CANADIENS (38-25-7) vs. BLUE JACKETS (35-27-6)

The surging Montreal Canadiens will take on the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Last time the two teams met, during the second month of the season, Montreal was finding its bearings and playing 0.500 hockey while Columbus was struggling with a 6-10-2 record. Since then, the Habs have solidified its playoff spot while the Jackets have emerged as a serious wildcard contender in the Eastern Conference. The emergence of youngsters Ryan Murray (20 years old), David Savard (20) and leading scorer Ryan Johansen (21) have buoyed the team and energized the play of veterans Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and Brandon Dubinsky.

On Tuesday, the Habs won going-away against the visiting Colorado Avalanche. Thomas Vanek had his first three goals as a member of the Canadiens to spoil Hall of Famer Patrick Roy’s return to the Bell Centre. David Desharnais added two assists and the members of the checking line comprised of Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and Dale Weise scored one goal each.

On the same night, the Blue Jackets dropped a 3-1 home decision against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Jackets could not solve goaltender Anton Khudobin, who was only beaten once by Boone Jenner despite facing 47 shots. Nathan Gerbe, Andrei Loktionov and Patrick Dwyer scored for the Hurricanes. Sergei Bobrovsky made 17 saves on 20 shots before leaving the game early in the third period.

The Blue Jackets will have to do without Ryan Murray, who’s out with a knee injury, Jack Skille and Jared Boll. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are still awaiting the returns of Michael Bournival, who is on a conditioning stint in Hamilton after recovering from a concussion, and Josh Gorges from a broken hand.

Brandon Prust will sit out with an upper-body injury. He'll be replaced by Ryan White.

On Thursday, the Blue Jackets and the Canadiens will play the third of three scheduled tilts this season. On November 15th, Lars Eller tied the game midway through the third and David Desharnais was the shootout hero as the Habs won 3-2 in Columbus.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM E.S.T.

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