Goalies front and center as Habs host Thrashers
Tuesday, 11.03.2009 / 7:30 PM
THRASHERS (5-4-1) at CANADIENS (7-7-0)
Last 10: Atlanta 5-4-1; Montreal 5-5-0
Season series: This is the second of four meetings between the Thrashers and the Canadiens. The teams faced off in Montreal just two weeks ago. The game went to a shootout and the Habs, undefeated in overtime and the shootout this season, took a 2-1 win with Scott Gomez scoring the winner. Montreal's Brian Gionta and Atlanta's Colby Armstrong scored in regulation.
Big Story: Coming off the weekend that celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the goalie mask, goaltending is the story of the hour for both teams. Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec turned out a stunning 50-save performance against the Senators on Saturday, while the Canadiens are still waiting for someone to emerge as their clear-cut starter. Carey Price made 33 saves in Friday's 3-2 loss to Chicago, some spectacular, but Jaroslav Halak got the start on Saturday and made 26 saves in the shootout win over Toronto.
Thrashers: Backed by Pavelec, Atlanta had a big 3-1 win on Saturday over Ottawa, snapping a four-game losing streak. Despite the win, the Thrashers only managed 21 shots on goal, with just three in the third period. On the upside, without injured captain Ilya Kovalchuk, other players have stepped up to take the lead. Rich Peverley had a goal and assist against the Senators, while Nik Antropov picked up two helpers.
''We didn't play well at all,'' Peverley said. ''At times it felt like we were just standing around. (Pavelec) handed us the win, he was tremendous.''
Canadiens: Montreal will try to extend its home winning streak to six on Tuesday. However, four of those five wins have been in overtime or the shootout. The Canadiens blew a two-goal lead against the Maple Leafs in the last five minutes of the third period. Mike Cammalleri and Gomez both scored in the shootout, while Halak stopped both Toronto attempts. The Canadiens' only regulation win this season came against the Islanders, 5-1, on Oct. 22.
"Our fans like OT and shootouts I guess," Cammalleri said. "We didn't want to give them those two goals.
"The fans were singing 'Na Na' (Goodbye) and were ready to go out and enjoy their Saturday night. We'd have liked to hold them off, but the big thing was to get the win."
Who's Hot: Tomas Plekanec and Cammalleri are tied for the lead in points with 13. Gomez follows behind with nine points. The Alaskan center collected an assist on Saturday in addition to scoring in the shootout. Peverley is riding a seven-game point streak and leads the Thrashers with 13 points. Antropov has 10 assists over 10 games, but has yet to register a goal this season. Zach Bogosian, with five goals, is in a four-way tie for the League lead in goals by a defenseman.
Injury Report: Defenseman Hal Gill left practice Monday after taking a shot to his foot, while Georges Laraque's back is reportedly causing him some trouble and he was absent from practice. Matt D'Agostini is also expected to be out from the hit he took to his head against the Blackhawks on Friday. Defensemen Andrei Markov (severed ankle tendons), and Ryan O'Byrne (knee) will remain on the injured reserved list for some time.
The Thrashers have lost Ilya Kovalchuk to a broken bone in his foot -- their sniper will be out for three to five weeks. Boris Valabik and Kari Lehtonen are still recovering from their respective back and ankle surgeries. Ron Hainsey is day-to-day.
Stat Pack: The Canadiens outshot the Thrashers 7-0 in overtime on Oct. 20, but Pavelec held firm until the shootout.
Puck Drop: With Pavelec in between the pipes for the Thrashers, they have a great chance -- though they might want to take care of business in regulation.
-- Magalie Lafrenière, NHL.com
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