The Montreal Canadiens return to the Bell Centre tonight to face the Ottawa Senators following a very successful 5 game road trip. The only blemish on the trip came in New York against an Islanders team desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The loss was a tough one for Carey Price especially, who had allowed at least 5 goals in back to back starts. Price would bounce back and post 41 saves in a 4-2 victory over Carolina two nights later. A weekend trip to sunny Florida saw the Habs grab back to back wins against the Lighting and Panthers to keep their impressive road record intact by finishing the trip 4-1-0.
It was an impressive road trip that keeps the Canadiens on top of the Eastern Conference standings. They have an opportunity to extend that lead tonight when they welcome the Senators to town.
Ottawa enters tonight’s contest on a bit of a slide recently. The Sens had the hockey world scratching their heads trying to figure out how they kept winning with so many of their best players injured. With Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson and Milan Michalek out, they continued to find ways to win. That has changed however, as they have only one win in their last six games.
It would appear that injuries are finally starting to catch up to the Ottawa Senators.
The Habs have had a few injuries of their own to deal with recently. Not nearly to the extent of the Senators but Brandon Prust, Rene Bourque, Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz will all miss another game tonight. A few call ups from the Bulldogs, Gabriel Dumont and Greg Pateryn have slid into the lineup nicely over the last few games and are proving the Canadiens have plenty of more depth than they’ve had in recent years.
Montreal will look to build on their solid 8-3-2 home record by taking advantage of the Senators struggles on the road. Even though the Sens continued to pile up wins without their stars, they have had a hard time winning games on the road all year. Their 4-7-2 record away from home is a complete 180 from their sparkling 9-1-3 mark at Scotiabank Place. Montreal has a 1-1-1 record in three meetings with the Senators this season, with the only game at the Bell Centre being the victory.
Montreal must take advantage of Ottawa’s abysmal play on the road this season if they wish to remain in first. They are currently 7 points ahead of the Sens but are tied with the Penguins and are only one point up on the Bruins, who have played two fewer games.
Montreal will have to clean up their record within the Northeast Division if they plan on holding down one of the top seeds when the playoffs roll around. When playing teams outside their division the Habs are an astounding 13-1-2 this season but are only 4-4-2 when playing their closest rivals.