Game preview: MTL @ PIT
CANADIENS (32-21-7) vs. PENGUINS (40-15-3)
On Thursday, the Canadiens will take on the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center.
The Habs dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Down 1-0 and having mustered only nine shots on net through 40 minutes of play, the home team rebounded with 11 shots in the next 24 minutes of action spanning the third period and overtime. Brian Gionta, who led the team with six shots on net, tied the game in the dying minutes of the third with Peter Budaj pulled in favour of an extra attacker. In the extra frame, the Habs generated a quantity of early chances, but saw Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist score the game-winner off a rebound with less than 30 seconds left.
The Penguins, coached by Dan Bylsma, have not played a game in 20 days .The tilt with the Canadiens will mark the first time Byslma will be behind the bench since he, Max Pacioretty, and the rest of Team USA were defeated in the bronze medal game by Finland at the Sochi Olympics.
Carey Price, who re-aggravated a lower-body injury at practice on Tuesday, will not dress on Thursday. Hamilton Bulldogs starter Dustin Tokarski was called up in relief and backed up Peter Budaj against the Red Wings. Michael Bournival and Brandon Prust are day-to-day with concussion symptoms and an upper-body injury respectively. Ryan White did not make the trip and will not play against the Penguins.
The Penguins are also missing several regulars due to injury. Tomas Vokoun, Beau Bennett, Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang and Paul Martin are on the shelf with injury or illness, while depth players Taylor Pyatt and Joe Vitale may be ready to go against Montreal after long layoffs.
The Penguins’ special teams have been dominant this season. The team is first in the NHL with a 25.4% conversion rate on the powerplay and ranks second on the penalty kill with an 87.0% success rate. Montreal ranks 14th (18.9%) and third (85.6%) respectively.
Thursday’s game will be the third and final regular season meeting between the two teams. The Canadiens won 3-2 at the Bell Centre on November 23 2013, while the Penguins got their revenge with a 5-1 win in Pittsburgh on January 22 2014. Against the Habs, the Penguins have won four in a row playing in front of their home crowd.