NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, March 6th
(All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (36-22-9) at Phoenix Coyotes (34-28-5), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens are fighting for the top spot in the
Eastern Conference. The Phoenix Coyotes are just trying to get to the
postseason. Those two clubs square off tonight at Phoenix's Jobing.com Arena.
The Canadiens sit second overall in the East, two points behind top-seeded
Pittsburgh. Montreal is also tied for the top spot in the Northeast Division
with Ottawa, but the Canadiens have played one fewer game, giving them the tie
Montreal began a four-game road trip through the Pacific Division on Monday
with a 6-4 setback in San Jose. Tomas Plekanec scored twice for the Canadiens,
who had a three-game winning streak halted.
Ryan O'Byrne and Maxim Lapierre also scored for Montreal, while Carey Price
surrendered all six goals on 39 shots faced. Price lost his first game since
taking over the starting goaltending job full time with Cristobal Huet's trade
to Washington at the trade deadline.
Price had given up just four goals over three games since the trade, all
Alex Kovalev had an assist in the loss to give him four goals and 11 helpers
over his last 10 games. Kovalev leads Montreal with 29 goals, 40 assists and
69 points this season.
The Canadiens also had a three-game road winning streak snapped on Monday, but
are still 20-10-4 as the visiting club this year. Montreal will also visit Los
Angeles and Anaheim on this swing.
The Coyotes haven't made the playoffs since the 2001-02 season, but third-year
head coach Wayne Gretzky has his club knocking on the postseason door.
Phoenix made a big statement on Wednesday, defeating the powerful Dallas
Stars, 2-1. Shane Doan's second-period goal was the decider, and his 21st goal
of the season was also his 40th career game-winning marker to tie Keith
Tkachuk's Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise record.
Rookie Peter Mueller netted his 20th goal of the season, becoming the first
rookie in club history to reach that mark since the 1992-93 season. That year,
the Winnipeg Jets had four freshman skaters reach that mark, including Teemu
Selanne, who netted an NHL rookie record 76 goals.
Ilya Bryzgalov got the win after stopping 20-of-21 shots for the Coyotes, who
have won three of their last five games. Bryzgalov has a 1.22 goals-against
average over his last five outings.
Phoenix currently sits 10th in the West, but is only three points behind
Nashville and Colorado for the last two playoff spots in the conference.
The Coyotes begin a five-game homestand tonight and are 14-15-3 as the host
club this year. However, Phoenix has lost three of its last four at home.
Montreal is unbeaten in its last eight tests against Phoenix, going 5-0 with
three ties. The Canadiens, who haven't visited the Coyotes since March 5,
2004, have two wins and a tie in its last three in Phoenix.
03/06 10:35:37 ET