The Montreal Canadiens rebounded nicely after getting off to their worst start in 70 years, but they could use another bounce-back effort.
Given the Canadiens' history against the Phoenix Coyotes, a trip to the desert could be just what they need.
Montreal goes for its eighth consecutive victory in this matchup Thursday night when the well-rested Coyotes try to build some momentum for their upcoming trip.
After opening 1-5-2 to match their worst start since 1941-42, the Canadiens won four straight. However, Montreal has since suffered back-to-back defeats, 5-3 on the road to the New York Rangers on Saturday and 3-1 at home Tuesday against Edmonton.
"You're disappointed with the score but it wasn't because of a lack of effort or lack of execution," said coach Jacques Martin, whose team outshot the Oilers 29-14. "We just didn't finish ... we'll look at the tape and find a couple of errors that we need to be better and regroup for Thursday's game."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has studied the tape of the Canadiens' most recent loss and knows his team better be ready, even though Phoenix has won five of seven and looked good in practice since defeating Edmonton 4-2 on Saturday.
"... (Montreal) didn't give up many shots, so I'm sure they'll be a hungry team coming in," Tippett said.
With a five-game trip kicking off Saturday against San Jose, Phoenix (7-4-2) is trying to end its three-game stretch on home ice on a positive note.
However, the Canadiens (5-7-2) have won four in a row on the road in this matchup and are 9-0-0 with three ties in the last 12 meetings overall. The Coyotes' last victory over Montreal was 4-2 at home Dec. 9, 1998.
The Canadiens might need more than history on their side when they face Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
Signed in the offseason to offset the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov, Smith has made a seamless transition after spending the past three-plus seasons with Tampa Bay.
He is 5-0-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average in his last six starts after turning aside 24 shots Saturday. The Coyotes have killed 17 of 18 penalties during that stretch.
"Mike Smith is a big factor for them but at the same time, they're playing a good team game," center Petteri Nokelainen, who was acquired from Phoenix on Oct. 23, told the Canadiens' official website. "They rely on hard work and strong back checking and that's what they've been doing the last three years."
Center Martin Hanzal could give the Coyotes' power-play unit a much-needed boost - it is 1 for 8 in the last four games - as he's expected to return Thursday after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Right wing Andrei Kostitsyn was sidelined Tuesday with a lower-body injury, but he accompanied Montreal on its two-game trip and could be on the ice Thursday. He scored in overtime the last time these clubs met to give the Canadiens a 3-2 home win Oct. 25, 2010.
Carey Price made 27 saves in that victory to improve to 4-0-0 with a 1.74 GAA against Phoenix.
He's allowed six goals in dropping his last two starts after giving up five in winning his previous four.