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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, April 23rd (All times Eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (27-13-5) at New Jersey Devils (17-18-10), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens hope a few games away from their rabid fanbase will be enough to get them on track before the start of the playoffs.
The Habs begin a season-ending three-game road trip on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Montreal has already clinched a playoff spot, but has lost four of its past five games. The Canadiens have slipped into a tie with the Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division with 59 points, but Boston has four games left in the regular season compared to Montreal. The Bruins visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
Wrapping the home portion of their regular season schedule, the Canadiens felt the wrath of the crowd following a 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Carey Price yielded all five goals on 25 shots faced, while Max Pacioretty prevented his club from getting shut out by scoring with 5:09 left in the game.
"We can't be worried at this point. We've got to get focused and ready to play, because we have a way bigger picture coming up," said Price.
The Habs will need Price to play better if they want to do well in the postseason. Montreal's netminder is just 3-6-0 in nine games this month with a 3.75 goals against average and .872 save percentage.
Perhaps getting away from the Bell Centre will be what the Canadiens need. They will play in New Jersey, Winnipeg and Toronto to close the season and are 13-6-2 as the visiting club this season.
Defenseman Josh Gorges said after Saturday's loss it's not a case of the club needing to get away from its home fans, but more of coming together to fix the recent struggles.
"Not necessarily the fact that we're out of (the Bell Centre)," said Gorges, "but the fact that we can be with just ourselves for the last week and make sure that we're as a group, for an entire three games, building so that come Game 1 of the playoffs, we're at the top of our game."
The Devils were not at the top of their game down the stretch and that will keep them out of the postseason for the second time in three years. That comes as a bit of a surprise after New Jersey advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
However, an 0-6-4 slump from March 25-April 15 put the club in a deep hole and after winning two straight, New Jersey was officially eliminated from the playoff race with a 4-1 setback on Sunday to the New York Rangers, who the Devils had bested in last year's Eastern Conference finals.
Martin Brodeur made 18 saves and Andrei Loktionov scored the Devils' lone goal with 6:30 to play.
"It's difficult to take. I think we have a great hockey team and we competed really hard all year," said Brodeur. "We followed the coach's system all year, but at the end of day when you don't score goals, or you don't score them timely, it's going to hurt you, especially in a short season."
New Jersey will also host Pittsburgh on Thursday before ending the season at the Rangers on Saturday.
The Devils have lost their first two meetings with the Canadiens this season, including a 2-1 home decision on March 16. It was Montreal's fifth victory in its past six games at New Jersey.
04/23 10:49:21 ET