LAST 10: Montreal 4-4-2; New Jersey 6-3-1
Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the clubs this season. Each team has won a road game. The Canadiens beat the Devils, 2-1, at Prudential Center on Dec. 10. A week later, the Devils beat the Habs, 5-3, at Bell Centre.
Big Story: The Devils will be looking to build on their wild 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers on Tuesday while the Canadiens are hoping to avoid a losing streak. They were beaten at home by the Sabres, 3-1, on Tuesday.
Canadiens: After winning their last two games before the All-Star break, including a 7-2 rout over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canadiens emerged from the layoff with a sub-par performance in a 3-1 loss to the Sabres. All-Star goalie Carey Price faced 39 shots, stopping 37, but all the Canadiens could muster against Ryan Miller was a goal by Max Pacioretty.
Montreal is now closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference than it is to the top eight. Price complained that the Habs were not desperate enough for the full 60 minutes Tuesday night. Coach Randy Cunneyworth talked about how the Canadiens were beaten all over the ice.
"It was a huge disappointment," Cunneyworth said in the Montreal Gazette. "We wanted a better result, but you have to go out there and earn it. They worked hard. They won a lot of races and outbattled us in a lot of cases. We had a handful of guys with that desperation, but we didn’t have enough guys. On the other side, they had more guys with that desperation."
Devils: The Devils felt their shootout win over the Rangers on Tuesday showed the kind of character they have in the dressing room. They had to come back from three different one-goal deficits, including two in the final five minutes of regulation, to force overtime.
Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game at 2-2 with 4:35 remaining, but Michael Del Zotto scored for the Rangers on the very next shift. However, David Clarkson was the recipient of a fortunate bounce off the glass and scored a 6-on-5 game-tying goal from the slot with 47.6 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Martin Brodeur, who will get the start Thursday, made 26 saves. Coach Pete DeBoer said he is going to ride Brodeur for the rest of the season, but he will still use Johan Hedberg in back-to-back situations. That means Hedberg will likely play Saturday at Philadelphia or Sunday at home against Pittsburgh.
Who's Hot: Devils forward Patrik Elias has 6 points on the homestand and 13 points over the last 10 games.
Injury Report: The Devils will be without Travis Zajac (Achilles), Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) and Adam Henrique (sore groin). … For the Canadiens, Travis Moen (upper body) has missed the last two games and Petteri Nokelainen (upper body) has missed the last three. Nokelainen joins Ryan White (sports hernia surgery), Brian Gionta (right biceps surgery) and Andrei Markov (knee surgery) on the injured reserve list.
Stat Pack: Clarkson, who had 2 points in Tuesday's win, now has 17 goals and 24 points in 49 games this season. He had 12 goals and 18 points in 82 games last season.
Puck Drop: "He had a down year last year," DeBoer said of Clarkson, who needs one more goal to set a new career-high for a season. "That's the only way to put it. This is a guy that has scored before in this League, maybe not at this pace, but close to this pace. He's contributed before. He earned himself a nice contract. So, he's been a good player in this League before."