After a near comeback that wasn't meant to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, the Montreal Canadiens will need to put a tough loss behind them and get ready for their second game in as many nights, this time taking on the New Jersey Devils on home ice.
Tonight will be the first game at the Bell Centre since December 17th as the Habs wrapped up an eight game road-trip last night. Undoubtedly the team will be looking forward to getting back home after winning only two games on the road. Yet, home ice hasn't treated the Habs much better as of late.
Still, the team and fans alike must not forget the optimism and positivity that came with thumping the Bruins at the Winter Classic, and a lineup that is becoming increasingly healthy.
The Habs will have a short turn-around before puck drop tonight as they fly in from Philadelphia, but motivation should not be difficult to find. This is a team still looking to turn the corner on what has been a dismal stretch of results over the past month, and as they say: there's no time like the present.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): RDS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.4||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||46.7|
|1.08||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.89|
Know Your Enemy
The Devils have rarely, throughout history, been lauded for having an explosive or exciting offence. For the most part, that remains true today. However, a number of Devils forwards have been having particularly good years and warrant a great deal of consideration. Leading the charge, unsurprisingly, is Mike Cammalleri, who leads his team with 35 points in 38 games - on pace for his best season in quite some time.
Of course, Cammalleri isn't doing it all on his own. There is a group of four forwards who seem to be doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to producing goals for the Devils, and among them are Cammalleri's usual linemates: Lee Stempniak and Adam Henrique.
Stempniak has become something of a mercenary in recent years, dressing for five different teams since 2013. In New Jersey he seems to have found a spot where he can succeed, having tallied 28 points thus far. Henrique is not far behind, with 27 points of his own.
The real story of the Devils offence this season seems to be Kyle Palmieri, who is having a breakout season with 30 points in 40 games - just one point shy of matching his career best. At just 24 years old, Palmieri is poised to be a dangerous offensive producer for quite some time, and he has certainly shown that ability this season with 17 goals scored already. With a 16.7% shooting percentage, however, it will be interesting to see whether or not the American can keep up the pace.
The trouble for the Devils has certainly been offensive depth, as they haven't gotten much scoring help outside of their top six, leaving the team sitting 12th in goals for in the conference. Fortunately for them, Cory Schneider has been lights out all season, with a .928 SV% - 8th among goaltenders with 10 or more games played. A stingy defence and solid goaltending has helped the Devils into a playoff spot, but they may need to find some more scoring help to stay there.
Last Time Out
It was the second night of a home-and-home series when the Canadiens and Devils last met back in late November. The Habs managed to sneak away with a shootout win on the road in the first game of the set, but the Devils would have their revenge on the 28th in what turned out to be a very close game.
Alex Galchenyuk got things started for the home team in the second period following a scoreless first, re-directing a Nathan Beaulieu shot to find the back of the net. Galchenyuk would add another in the third period to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead with just over ten minutes to go.
The Devils, though, would not roll over. Patrik Elias managed to beat Mike Condon to halve the lead. It looked as though the Habs might close this one out until Palmieri tied things up in the final minute of play, sending the game to overtime, where John Moore would seal the deal and give his team the victory.
Tonight's showdown may indeed mirror this one, in that it has the potential to be a very close, very hard-fought affair. If the Habs hope to turn things around at home, they'll need to find a way to beat Schneider while shutting down a potent opposing top line. This will be the first of a three-game homestand for the Canadiens, who would like to finally string together some wins.