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Canadiens vs Red Wings game preview

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Facing a division rival and 2013-14 playoff team, can the Habs make it 3-for-3 on their first homestand of the season?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In their sixth game of the season, most everything went to plan.

The Habs came out way ahead in the possession department, even after hunkering down for the 3rd period. They peppered Calvin Pickard with high quality chances, as the young keeper was the difference between the close final score and the Canadiens blowing the game open. The Canadiens were able to take advantage of the thin Colorado defense, without sacrificing too much in their own end. The Avalanche's top talent, as they are wont to do, had a number of excellent chances themselves (Matt Duchene being exhibit A), but between Carey Price and a few episodes of solid recovery defence, the Habs were able to limit their former provincial rivals to only two goals.

Tonight, the Habs will look to follow a similar formula to defeat the Detroit Red Wings. After six games, both the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings have had some early season success. Buoyed by back-to-back wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Wings find themselves fourth in the Atlantic division, a position roughly commensurate with the team's talent level.

Like the Avalanche, that talent level isn't quite to the level that Montreal's is. In four games against lesser teams, including the Leafs, Capitals, Flyers, and Avs, the Canadiens have earned all eight available points. Tonight, the Habs will look to extend that run of success.

How to watch

Time: 7:30pm EST
In the Habs' region (English): City TV
In the Habs' region (French): RDS
In Detroit: FS-Detroit
Elsewhere: NHL Center Ice or NHL Gamecenter Live

Tale of the Tape

2014-10-21 TofT DET

Know Your Enemy

The Red Wings have suffered some early season injury trouble, as key skaters like Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson are yet to take the ice this season. Those problems were made worse when starting goaltender Jimmy Howard went down (he'll return tonight), as did the Mule, Johan Franzen.

The absence of players like Datsyuk, Alfie, and now Franzen have left the Wings top-heavy on the front end, but for the first five games of the season, Detroit's stars have been up to the challenge. Henrik Zetterberg has an impressive six points through games, earning five of those in the weekend's Toronto set. Gustav Nyquist, last season's breakout sensation, still riding the shooting percentage wave, scoring on one of every three shots to slot into the 10th spot in the race for the Maurice Richard Trophy.

The downside of that equation is that while the four players who have spent time on the first line have combined for 20 points so far (Zetterberg, Nyquist, Franzen, and Justin Abdelkader), the rest of the lineup has netted just 12.

Fortunately for fans in Motown, that injury trend looks to be easing up a little, as Datsyuk should make his season debut this evening. The dynamic Russian is a highly effective player, proving himself capable of point-per-game production, strong defense, and the occasional, downright magical, play.

Even with Franzen out, Datsyuk's presence ensures that Detroit will maintain their quota of three top scorers for the Habs to contend with. The bigger question lies with the team's bottom-9, who will need to find some traction if the Wings are to get win #4.

Last Time Out

The Red Wings did manage one non-star goal last time out (courtesy of Luke Glendening), their offence was again paced by the aging arsenal at the top of their roster. More notable was the fact that the Habs slept away a three goal lead, allowing Mike Babcock's boys to make a 3-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie before Brian Gionta clinched the match from a bad angle.

Whether it's the poor first periods that have characterized their season to date, or the mid-game slip-up that almost cost them their last contest with the Red Wings, the Habs need to play with the type of workaday attention to detail that can drive a team to success over the long haul. If they can find a way to root their play in that unspectacular ethic, they can achieve a record that is anything but.