Stars hope to bounce back in Montreal
STARS (29-26-4) at CANADIENS (24-26-10)
: FS-SW, TSN-HABS
: Dallas 3-5-2; Montreal 5-4-1.
: This is the first and only meeting this season between these teams. In their last meeting on Dec. 21, 2010, Carey Price
stopped just 12 of Dallas' 17 shots and the Stars topped Montreal 5-2 despite being outshot 29-17.
: Both teams are on the outside looking in on their respective playoff races. While Dallas has dropped five of its last six games, the Stars remain within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot. The Canadiens have a much deeper hole to dig their way out of towards the postseason, but their recent play has inspired hope that the playoffs might still be a possibility.
: Since winning three of their five games following the All-Star break, the Stars have gone 1-3-2 and dropped in the Western-Conference playoff hunt. It was during this tough stretch that the team announced the trade of defenseman Nicklas Grossman to last Thursday. The veteran defenseman was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for a second-round pick in 2012 and third-round pick in 2013.
The Stars have gone 1-1-1 since the Grossman trade, including a hard-fought loss to the Predators at home on Sunday. Against Nashville, Michael Ryder opened the scoring in the first period with his 23rd goal of the season, his highest total since the 2008-09 season. But the Predators would respond with three unanswered goals, putting Dallas in a difficult 3-1 hole against one of the League’s stingier defenses. Alex Goligoski would halve the Predators' lead with 4:49 remaining in regulation, but Dallas would get no closer despite an 11-6 shot advantage in the third period.
: A recent 5-1-1 run by the Canadiens had their diehard fans hoping a playoff run might still be in the cards. It was during this stretch that the Canadiens, like the Stars, decided to deal a veteran defenseman to a playoff contender. Montreal got the NHL trade season going on Friday when they dealt defenseman Hal Gill to the Nashville Predators for a second-round pick and two prospects, including Blake Geoffrion
, whose grandfather and great grandfather have already had their numbers retired by the Canadiens.
Following a shootout win in Buffalo in the first game of the post-Gill era, Montreal hosted the New Jersey Devils for an early-evening matchup on Sunday. Despite another sell-out Bell Centre crowd, the Canadiens never got their footing against the Devils, who came into the game having won seven straight in Montreal. The Canadiens trailed 1-0 following a first period in which they mustered just four shots, and while Max Pacioretty
's 25th goal of the season would cut the New Jersey lead to 2-1, the Habs would drop another one to the Devils, 3-1.
: Michael Ryder has found a late-season surge, scoring four goals in his current six-game point streak. His former Montreal teammate, Mike Ribeiro, has seven points in his last seven games while Loui Eriksson has six points in his last six games. … For Montreal, Pacioretty has been scorching since Jan. 1, with six goals in his current six-game point streak. His center, David Desharnais
, has a six-game streak of his own, in which he has seven assists and eight points.
: Brenden Morrow (neck/back) is on Dallas' IR, while Jamie Benn (lacerated leg) and Sheldon Souray (bruised foot) are expected to miss the game in Montreal. … For the Habs, Andrei Markov
(knee), Travis Moen
(upper body), Mike Blundern (knee), Brian Gionta
(bicep surgery), and Petteri Nokelainen
(leg) are on IR.
: This important game could hinge on which team manages to find any success with the man advantage. Montreal and Dallas feature two of the League's five worst power-play units. But there are signs that both teams are improving their play with the man advantage. Dallas has scored on the power play in two of its last three matches, while Montreal has at least one power-play goal in five of their last six games.
: Price established himself as the workhorse in Montreal's crease last season when he appeared in a franchise-record 72 games and collected 38 wins, the highest total for a Habs goalie in almost 35 years. This season, Kari Lehtonen is doing the same with the Stars. The Finnish keeper's 34 wins are within striking distance of the franchise record of 41 set by Marty Turco in 2005-06 and he is just five games short of tying Turco's franchise mark of 74, which he set in 2008-09.