NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 29th (All times eastern)
Atlanta Thrashers (32-31-12) at Montreal Canadiens (40-29-7), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - With a postseason berth almost officially clinched, the Montreal Canadiens will try to break out of a historic scoring slump when they host the Atlanta Thrashers in this evening's game at the Bell Centre.
Following an 8-1 victory in Minnesota on March 20, the Canadiens have been shut out in three straight games. It marks the first time Montreal has been blanked in three consecutive tilts in more than 60 years, with the last time coming from October 23-29, 1949 against Boston, Toronto and Detroit.
All told, the Canadiens have gone 186 minutes and five seconds since Tom Pyatt scored the Habs' last goal in the blowout win over the Wild.
However, despite Montreal's brutal 0-3-0 stretch, the club is still nearing a claim of a postseason berth. With 87 points, the Canadiens are tied with the New York Rangers for the East's sixth seed and they're currently seven points ahead of the ninth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes. However, the slide may have cost the Habs a shot at a division crown, as Montreal has dropped seven points behind Boston in the battle for the Northeast Division title.
"We're still in a position where we hold our destiny in our own hands. I think we have enough experience as a group that we won't let ourselves slide too long," said Montreal goaltender Carey Price. "I'm not changing anything. I'm going to keep doing my best to give my team a chance to win every night. Sixty percent of the time, it works and we win games."
After getting pulled from Thursday's 7-0 loss in Boston, Price was Montreal's best player in Saturday's 2-0 setback to Washington. He made 31 saves in defeat for the Canadiens, who have lost five of their last seven games.
Montreal has also lost two straight and three of its last four games on home ice, dropping the Habs' record as the host this year to 22-11-6.
While the Canadiens are trying to get back on track for a likely playoff run, the Thrashers appear to be headed for yet another year without a postseason.
Atlanta, which is nine points behind eighth-seeded Buffalo with seven games left, has qualified for the playoffs just once in 10 seasons since joining the league in 1999-2000. Atlanta's was swept by the New York Rangers in its lone trip to the postseason in the spring of 2007.
"For us, we basically have to win every game and get help from some other teams," said Atlanta goaltender Chris Mason after his team won Sunday against visiting Ottawa.
The Thrashers have won six of their last 10 games and are coming off a shootout victory in their most recent outing, a 5-4 triumph against the Senators. Andrew Ladd scored the lone goal of the shootout to lift his club to a second win in three games.
Blake Wheeler and Ben Maxwell each registered a goal and an assist for Atlanta. Bryan Little and Mark Stuart also tallied in regulation for the victors. Mason stopped 24-of-28 shots for the Thrashers.
Tonight marks the start of a five-game road trip for Atlanta. The Thrashers are just 15-16-5 as the visiting club this season.
Atlanta has taken two of three from the Habs this season, but Montreal recorded a 3-1 road win when the clubs met last on March 1. Price made 40 saves on 41 shots to lift the Canadiens.
The Thrashers have won four of six and six of their last 10 games against the Canadiens overall. Atlanta has won its last two tilts in Montreal, but has lost six out of nine as the guest in this series.
03/29 11:14:12 ET