Game preview: MTL @ NSH
CANADIENS (21-13-3) vs. PREDATORS (16-16-3)
Arriving in Nashville for their final game before a short Christmas break, the Canadiens will look to come away with two points against the Predators on Saturday night.
The Habs had a game to forget against the surging St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Alex Steen scored twice in the first eight minutes, Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz and Maxim Lapierre also lit the lamp, and Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves as the Blues took the game by a score of 5-1.
Brendan Gallagher, who batted-home his tenth of the season on a rebound, was the lone scorer for the Canadiens. Carey Price made 25 saves on 29 shots, allowing more than four goals in a game for the first time this season.
On the same night, the Predators fell 4-2 against a Stamko-less Tampa Bay Lightning. Martin St. Louis scored his 14th of the year on the powerplay, and Teddy Purcell added the eventual game-winner midway through the second period. Craig Smith scored both of Nashville’s goals. Carter Hutton started the game in net for the Preds but was chased after making only six saves on ten shots against. Marek Mazanec took over and was perfect the rest of the way, stopping 19 pucks.
As much as the 19th-ranked Montreal offensive has been struggling of late, Nashville’s offensive drought has been even more pronounced. The team is 27th in the league in goals for; their leading goal-scorer Craig Smith only has eight markers this year, and 26 in his entire three-year career in the NHL. Keeping the ship afloat for coach Barry Trotz is an outstanding troika on defense, composed of perennial Norris contender Shea Weber, who has also scored eight times so far, and youngsters Roman Josi and Seth Jones.
Absent for the Predators are starting goaltender Pekka Rinne and prospect Filip Forsberg. Both are on injured reserve.
As for the Canadiens, George Parros is the only player out with injury.
Saturday’s game will be the second of two matchups between Montreal and Nashville in 2013-14. On October 19, 2013, the Preds visited the Bell Centre and came away with a 2-1 regulation win after Seth Jones scored the game-winner off a rush with less than two minutes to go. The Habs will be shooting for a first win in Nashville since November 2011, when Max Pacioretty scored the overtime winner in a 2-1 victory.