The Montreal Canadiens return to the Bell Centre for the first time in two weeks when they open a four-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. Eastern Conference-leading Montreal capped its five-game road trip with a crushing defeat, blowing a two-goal lead in the third period of an eventual 3-2 loss at St. Louis on Tuesday night.
New Jersey Devils vs Montreal Canadiens
When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, December 8, 2016
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG-Plus2 (New Jersey), SN360, RDS (Montreal)
PREDICTION: Canadiens 3, Devils 1
MONTREAL — It’s said that home is where the heart is. For the Montreal Canadiens, it’s also where the wins are.
A .500 team as the opposition, Montreal (17-6-3) has been dominant at the Bell Centre this season, where they’ve won 12 of 14 games and lost for the first time in regulation just a few weeks ago. Now, after a five-game road trip, they kick off a four-game homestand that begins with a tilt against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
The Canadiens are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues to close out the trip, a point lost after holding a 2-0 lead in the game. But while the team earned half of the 10 points on the table during their road trip, they’re pleased with their efforts overall.
“We wanted to do better and we wanted to come up with that win (in St. Louis) and get that extra point, but all of these games we battled really hard,” Max Pacioretty told reporters after the game. “It’s not always going to go your way. It’s not always going to be perfect. But, we liked the effort every night.”
The Canadiens have been relatively healthy through the first couple of months of the season but lately, the injury bug has begun to take a bite out of the group. After Alex Galchenyuk left the game against the Kings following a collision with center Anze Kopitar on Sunday, the Habs took another hit down the middle when David Desharnais, Galchenyuk’s replacement on Montreal’s top line, went down with an injury of his own.
The team announced Wednesday evening that both would be sidelined for six to eight weeks with knee injuries. If there’s a slight silver lining for the Habs, it would be the recent play of veteran pivot Tomas Plekanec. He scored against St. Louis to put Montreal up by a pair — his first goal in just over a month and second overall — and it was his shot that hit Paul Byron to open the scoring.
The Canadiens made a swap earlier in the day among their younger forwards, re-assigning Charles Hudon to and recalling Sven Andrighetto from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.
Montreal also re-assigned defenseman Mark Barberio, who dressed for the team’s last six games. That could open the door for Zach Redmond to make his season debut. Redmond was recently taken off injured reserve after recovering from a broken foot suffered in training camp but has yet to dress for a game. Meanwhile, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu remains on injured reserve.
After a rough go through the second half of November, the early days of December have been good to the Devils. New Jersey won just one of its final eight games last month but has kicked off the final month of the calendar year with two wins and an overtime loss.
Their most recent triumph came in the form of a 3-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in a game that turned into a chippy affair after a big hit from Taylor Hall led to Canucks defenseman Philip Larsen being taken off on a stretcher.
“I’m looking to make contact there but I never want to see a guy laying on the ice like that,” Hall told the New Jersey Record, while also noting that he tried to keep his arms in and make a chest-to-chest hit.
“I only know how to play the game one way and you’ve got to play it hard.”
Former Canadiens winger Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who has nine points in 25 games with New Jersey this season, had a weight lifted off his shoulder against the Canucks when he recorded his point, an assist, in seven games. He told the Record he met with coach John Hynes in the morning, who provided the veteran with a “wake-up call.”
“I’m just happy to help the team win, I’ve felt pretty useless the last few games,” he said. “I didn’t get much done. It’s nice to get on the scoresheet and make some plays again. I had a good chat with Hynsie this morning. He was good about it. It was kind of a wake-up call. I think you need it sometimes. Not only about not producing but, sometimes when you’re not producing, you get away from your game and you start looking for other things and you don’t compete as hard. You’re puck watching. You’ve got to get back to basics and I think I did that.”
Hynes announced that Cory Schneider will get the start against Montreal.