In the wake of a come-from-behind win at the Prudential Centre on Friday, the Montreal Canadiens take to the ice again this evening in hopes of making it a clean sweep of the New Jersey Devils in their weekend series.
A win tonight would also extend the Habs' current win-streak to five, which would be the longest undefeated run since the team's perfect nine-game run to start the season.
However, as evidenced by the game on Friday night, a win may be no easy task. While the Devils have had their share of struggles throughout the first quarter of the NHL season, the Canadiens have had to rely on their organization depth to get them through the last few games. Now that depth will be tested once more, as they must build on what they have already accomplished.
It will be a quick turn-around for both teams, making the journey back to Montreal from New Jersey overnight. As such, it remains unknown who will get the start in goal for the Habs, who we learned post-game will be without Carey Price for one month. With two days off after tonight, though, it seems likely that Mike Condon will get the nod once again.
Something else to keep an eye in as puck drop nears will be the Habs lines. While head coach Michel Therrien has given no reason to believe they will be permanent, he did make a few moves in juggling his lines toward the end of last night's game - and ultimately, they paid off.
In any event, this evening's game feels something like the beginning of a championship title defence for the Habs, who will need to fend off competitors for tops in the East over the course of the next month as they wait for Price to return. It will be up to the Habs depth at all positions to ensure they are successful; so far, at least, there is no reason to doubt them.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
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Tale of the Tape
|53.5||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||47.8|
|1.47||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.81|
Know Your Enemy
As Condon has had praise heaped upon him for his performances in Price's absence, the Devils have not had the luxury of having such a reliable back-up to their own star goaltender.
Cory Schneider has been lights out in New Jersey all season, and showed again on Friday that he is among the league's elite at the position. Should he get the call again, the Habs snipers will be in for a tough outing once again.
In stark contrast, Keith Kinkaid has not been on nearly the same level. With just one win in his four games played, Kinkaid boasts a SV% of just .881, well below what you'd expect of an NHL net-minder who plays with any type of regularity. Schneider has been the Devils' everything this season, so the decision of who gets the crease tonight could make a world of difference.
Outside of the net, the Devils have certainly struggled. Their first line has been firing at all cylinders, with Mike Cammalleri looking like the player he was in his prime and registering just over a point-per-game. Lee Stempniak and Adam Henrique - the team's leading goal scorer with 11 - aren't far behind. Past that, things begin to unravel.
In particular, the Devils could use with some more contribution from their blue-liners - a unit which is, quite frankly, undermanned. Sophomore Damon Severson is the points leader among Devils defensemen with seven points, all assists, showing that the club's forwards have been asked to do it all on their own this season.
While the Habs have been able to rely on their depth since the start of the season, the Devils have simply not been as fortunate.
There are some pieces in place that could make the Devils a dangerous team, but the supporting cast has not been there and that is the major reason that they are on the outside looking in when it comes to likely playoff teams.
Last Time Out
With tonight's game representing the second of a back-to-back between these two teams, neither side will need to look back very far for game-tape to analyze.
The Habs were able to overcome a 2-0 deficit on the strength of goals from Sven Andrighetto and Alex Galchenyuk, who each scored in regulation and later in the shootout to give the Canadiens a narrow victory. If not for the stellar play of Schneider, it may never have been so close.
The Canadiens were the better team at even strength for much of the night, with the exception of a particularly slow start to the first period. The Devils had their best period overall in the second frame, thanks largely in part to two power plays that came almost one right after the other.
It was those special teams that nearly sunk the Habs on Friday night, which has not often been the case this season. After all, they have been a top-three team on both the man advantage and penalty kill. That will be perhaps the main area where the Habs will hope to be better tonight, having gone 0/4 on the power play against the Devils on Friday.