NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 10th (All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (37-23-7) at St. Louis Blues (30-28-9), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The surging Montreal Canadiens will try rally around an injured teammate tonight, when they visit the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
The Canadiens picked up their fifth straight victory with a big 4-1 win over the rival Boston Bruins on Tuesday, but the game was overshadowed by a violent collision between Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara and Montreal forward Max Pacioretty.
With the Canadiens leading by a 4-1 score late in the second period, Pacioretty was charging down the left side boards near the benches. Chara went to pinch Pacioretty off and forced him into a dangerous spot where a pane of glass separates the benches. His head hit the padded support before he tumbled straight to the ice. Pacioretty laid motionless on the ice for several minutes before he was carried off on a stretcher and later taken to a Montreal hospital.
Chara was handed a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct on the play, but the NHL announced Wednesday that the big defenseman will not face any suspension or fine for his role in the collision.
Meanwhile, Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion, as well as a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebrae and is sidelined indefinitely. He is still at the hospital for further observation.
"Our main focus right now is Max," Canadiens forward Scott Gomez told his team's official website. "We're also doing our best to think about the next game, if nothing else because that's what Max would have wanted."
Pacioretty's injury has also helped take the focus off what could be one of the most anticipated goaltending matchups of the season, as Montreal netminder Carey Price is expected to face his former teammate Jaroslav Halak this evening.
Halak is in his first season with St. Louis after spending the first four years of his NHL career in Montreal. The 25-year-old won the starting job from Price before the start of last year's playoffs and Halak almost single- handedly willed the eight-seeded Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals.
But, even after the stellar postseason, Price was still considered the Habs' goaltender of the future and Halak was traded to St. Louis in the offseason. The move was not popular among many of the Canadiens faithful this summer, but Price has quieted the doubters with a Vezina-caliber season in 2010-11.
Price enters tonight with a 32-21-6 record and seven shutouts and is also sporting a .924 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average this year. Halak, who was recently activated from injured reserve after a hand injury, is 19-17-6 with a .907 save percentage and 2.63 GAA.
One of the players that Montreal acquired for Halak was the hero in the Canadiens' victory over Boston. Lars Eller, a first-round pick by St. Louis in 2007, posted his first career two-goal game in the 4-1 victory and has seven goals on the season.
James Wisniewski and Brian Gionta also had goals while Price made 30 saves. The regulation win also pulled Montreal within three points of Boston for the Northeast Division lead.
Meanwhile, the Blues have won their last two games, sweeping a home-and-home series with Columbus. St. Louis posted a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory in Columbus, two days after the Blues beat the Blue Jackets in a 5-4 shootout decision at Scottrade Center.
Chris Stewart scored his second goal of the game 54 seconds into OT, as St. Louis overcame a three-goal deficit to stun the host Blue Jackets. Stewart tied the contest in the third period, minutes after Ian Cole scored his first NHL goal for the Blues.
Halak made 19 saves, including just five in the third period, to earn the win. It was Halak's first game action since Feb. 14, but he is expected to get most of the starts the rest of the way.
St. Louis recorded an overtime win in Montreal last season and has taken two of three and six out of nine in the series. The Canadiens have claimed victories in each of their last two trips to the Gateway City.
The Blues are 19-11-4 as the host this season, while Montreal is 16-15-1 as the visiting club.
03/10 11:02:06 ET