Habs visit Isles seeking home-and-home sweep
CANADIENS (6-2-1) at ISLANDERS (4-3-2)
TV -- RDS (HD), TSN-HABS (HD), MSG PLUS 2
Season series --
This is the second of four games between the two clubs and the trailing end of a home-and-home series. The Islanders and the Canadiens met on Wednesday in Montreal with the Habs taking a 5-3 victory.
Big story --
With their win on Wednesday, the Habs moved into first place in the Eastern Conference and tied the Lightning in points with 13. They outplayed the Islanders on Wednesday, outshooting them 35-21 and getting offense from all their lines. Even goaltender Carey Price picked up an assist. But on Friday it will be backup Alex Auld who will get his first start of the season for Montreal.
"I've been waiting for this, and I'm really happy to get to play. Whenever you make your first start with a new team it's always an exciting moment," Auld said. "I think that maybe a few years ago earlier on in my career I would dwelled more on having waited his long before getting a start, but now I take things day by day, game by game. I focus only on the games that I'm going to play. When you concentrate too much on the games you're not playing, you're not really ready to go when your turn comes. So that's the approach I've taken over the past couple of weeks -- keep focused and stay sharp."
Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Jeff Halpern each had a goal and an assist on Wednesday in the Canadiens' victory. The line of Plekanec, Kostitsyn and Mike Cammalleri has been flying this season and has already accumulated 25 points in the first nine games. Halpern, off to a fast start with 3 goals and 2 assists, was praised for his efforts by coach Jacques Martin.
Mathieu Darche opened the night's scoring in the first for his first of the season and Travis Moen followed with a shorthanded goal. And while the offense has been clicking, the Habs still struggle on the power play, going 0-for-3 on Wednesday and 2-32 for the season.
"Our guys are playing well offensively and I think that's stemming from playing well defensively," said Price, who finished with 18 saves. "That's where we’re getting our chances from, coming back, protecting our house and attacking from there."
While the Islanders struggled on Wednesday, they still found the back of the net and there were several positives to draw from, especially on the power play. James Wisniewski
scored with the man advantage and assisted on John Tavares
' power-play tally. The Isles have had power-play goals in six straight games.
Where they failed to make an impact was is the amount of shots that were taken. New York has been limited to 25 shots or fewer in six of their last seven games. Meanwhile, they have allowed at least 30 shots in their last five. Dwayne Roloson
finished the night with 29 saves, including several impressive stops on breakaways and the denial of Benoit Pouliot on a penalty shot.
"We didn't skate, we didn't make it harder for the opposition to make questionable decisions with the puck," coach Scott Gordon said. "If you're going to allow them to make skilled plays all the time, they have some pretty good skill over there and they're going to make them."
Who's hot --
Kostitsyn had a two-point night Wednesday for the fourth time this season and for a third straight game. Cammalleri, while held scoreless on Wednesday, leads the League in plus-minus with a plus-9, while Price's 6 wins tie him for the League lead with Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Wisniewski leads all defensemen in the NHL in points with 2 goals and 9 assists, while Tavares matched a career high on Wednesday extending his points streak to five games, with 6 goals and 2 assists in that span.
Injury report --
Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov (right MCL surgery) is still out, but is expected to make his return against the Panthers on Saturday. The Islanders, on the other hand, have a lengthier injury list. Defenseman Mark Streit
(left shoulder surgery) and forwards Kyle Okposo
(right shoulder surgery) and Rob Schremp
(strained lower back) are on the injured reserve, while forwards Michael Grabner
(groin) and Trent Hunter
(foot) are questionable for Friday.
Stat pack --
The Canadiens have a 31-30-6-3 record while on the road playing the Islanders.
Puck drop --
"We've got to make sure that we stay humble. We have to keep doing what's making us successful, and that's working hard." -- Price after the Habs' victory on Wednesday.