NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, January 10th
(All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (24-12-5) at Montreal Canadiens (16-18-7), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - There just wasn't enough room for both Jaroslav Halak and
Carey Price in Montreal, leading to Halak's eventual trade to the Blues
despite a run of success with the club.
Halak is once again battling a teammate for playing time, but that won't stop
St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock from giving him the start tonight in
Halak's first trip back to Montreal.
The 26-year-old Halak was selected in the ninth round of the 2003 draft by
the Canadiens and went 56-34-7 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .919 save
percentage during a four-season stint with Montreal. He overtook Price for
starting duties in the 2010 postseason and helped lead the eighth-seeded Habs
to the conference finals.
However, with the Canadiens already heavily invested in Price, they dealt
Halak to the Blues on June 16, 2010 for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. After
facing the Canadiens last year in St. Louis, Halak will finally make his
return to the Bell Centre this evening.
"Obviously, it's great to be back in Montreal to play a game," Halak said on
Monday. "I'm glad I get the start tomorrow, and hopefully it's going to be a
great game for both sides."
Halak has gone 36-28-12 with a 2.43 GAA and .910 save percentage since joining
the Blues, but has split time in net this year with Brian Elliott, who is
second in the league with five shutouts this season and is also among the
league leaders with a 1.62 GAA and .940 save percentage.
Despite sharing duties in net, Halak is simply focused tonight on getting his
team a win. He has been doing that as of late, going 6-0-3 in his last nine
starts with a 1.95 GAA.
"It feels a little weird to be on the other side, but my home is St. Louis
right now, and we are here and we're going to play a great game," Halak said.
"Obviously there are two points on the line, we want to do our best and we'll
see at the end of the night who comes out with a win."
It was Elliott who got the call in net when the Blues wrapped a perfect three-
game homestand on Saturday, making 15 saves in a 4-0 shutout of Colorado that
moved St. Louis into first place in the Central Division and improved the club
to 18-5-5 since Hitchcock took over midseason.
St. Louis' 53 points are tied with Detroit and Chicago for the top spot in the
division after the Red Wings beat the Blackhawks in overtime on Sunday.
"I don't think any of the guys [knew]," said forward David Backes of being in
first place. "That only lasts so long in the Western Conference unless you
continue to play well and get points every night. That's our goal, we have to
establish our good game on the road especially in a tough building like
Patrik Berglund and Kevin Shattenkirk scored first-period goals while Jason
Arnott and Backes added power-play markers in the second stanza for St. Louis,
which is 9-0-1 in its last 10 games at home. The Blues are only 7-9-3 on the
road but kick off another five-game homestand on Thursday versus the Canucks.
Halak faced Montreal on March 10 of last year in the only encounter between
the Blues and Canadiens, stopping 27-of-28 shots in a 4-1 win. It improved St.
Louis to 3-0-1 in its past four versus Montreal, with each of the previous
three meetings going beyond regulation.
The Blues have won four of their last five at Montreal.
The Canadiens come into this game looking to win three straight for the first
time since a four-game run from Oct. 26-Nov. 4. Montreal's 3-1 victory over
Tampa Bay on Saturday gave it back-to-back wins under interim head coach Randy
Cunneyworth for the first time.
Mike Blunden and Max Pacioretty each scored in the second period, while Erik
Cole netted his team-leading 17th goal to give him seven points over a five-
game point streak. Carey Price stopped 23 shots for the Canadiens, who had
lost seven of eight since the last time they won back-to-back games on Dec.
"It's been a while since I scored and tonight, getting that shot off, well I
shot at the net and that's what happened," said Pacioretty, who scored for the
first time since Dec. 10. "We were able to keep [the lead] and that's the
difference between winning and losing hockey games."
Montreal had captain Brian Gionta back in the lineup for the first time in 12
games due to a lower-body injury.
St. Louis, meanwhile, is eligible to have defender Ian Cole back in the lineup
after he finished up a three-game suspension on Saturday for an illegal check
against Detroit last weekend.
01/10 10:48:34 ET