Zach is back as Devils host Habs

Habs killer Zach Parise makes his return to the ice tonight as the New Jersey Devils host the Montreal Canadiens. Parise, who has 20 points in 21 career games against Montreal, has not seen action since a knee problem sidelined him on October 31.

For the Canadiens, it's just another speed bump on the way to securing a playoff spot in the NHL Eastern Conference.

While the Habs had the day off on Thursday, and held a practice Friday, so lack of rest should not be an excuse tonight.

The Devils beat the conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. Friday night. You have to imagine where the Devils would be had Jacques Lemaire been behind the bench all season.

The New Jersey club will be tired, but Martin Brodeur did not play in last night's game. That means the future Hall of Fame goalie, who has more wins over the Canadiens than any other non-division NHL club he's faced, should be well rested. Brodeur's career record against Montreal is 40-16-5, with a 1.74 GAA, .933 SvPct and 9 shutouts

The dreary and quiet Prudential Center, coupled with the coaching styles of LeMaire and Jacques Martin should make this a real yawner. The Canadiens, who have struggled on the road of late are a combined 4-23-4-1 at the Prud and their previous home at the Meadowlands arena. The Devils are 56-35-8-1 against their visiting opponents, since moving from Colorado in 1982.

This is the final meeting between the two clubs this season. The Devils have won two in Montreal, while the Habs pulled off a 5-1 win in Jersey on December 2. Brodeur was injured when that game was played. Carey Price picked up the win that night, and is a career 3-5-1 against the Devils. Price has been left to dry by his team of late, and has surrendered three or more goals in four of his last five road games.

Chris Boucher breaks down the last meeting between the two clubs, noting the Devils controled mid-ice throughout most of the game. According to Boucher's breakdown, the Habs lost 23 of 35 neutral-zone puck battles, while adding 17 neutral-zone give-aways.

Jeff Halpern did not made the trip to New Jersey, with an undisclosed injury, but defenseman Jaroslav Spacek did and has an outside be ready as soon as Tuesday. Spacek took part in today's optional skate with some contact and spoke to the media after.

Martin noted that focus and execution, against a team that will wait for you to make mistakes. is a critical element in tonight's game as they battle for a playoff spot. The Canadiens coach also said today that who the Canadiens  play in the first round is not a concern right now, rather focusing on tonight's game and  then working on the the remaining games.

The Canadiens canot finish first in their division now, as the Boston Bruins won Satrurday afternoon. A Habs win, coupled with a loss by the Carolina Hurricanes, would essentially put them into the playoffs. If the math is right, the Canadiens would need just a pont in their final three games to make it in.

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