Canadiens-Red Wings Preview
The Detroit Red Wings managed to overcome their injuries and defeat an Original Six rival last time out. They could get some help in their attempt to beat another one.
Detroit (22-18-10) has been plagued by a short-handed lineup for much of this season, and Jimmy Howard's knee injury is the latest for a club currently on the bubble for a 23rd consecutive playoff berth.
Howard is expected to miss at least one week after hurting himself in a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on Monday. Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (concussion), Joakim Andersson (lower body) and Cory Emmerton (finger) are among those who are also out.
Despite those missing players, the Red Wings had one of their best scoring performances this month while rallying for a 5-4 shootout win over Chicago on Wednesday. Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves helped Detroit erase an early 2-0 deficit, and Howard's replacement, Jonas Gustavsson, outdueled the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford in the extra session.
''We're a little depleted, but we still have a great team and we showed that," Eaves said. "It was nice to get rewarded for playing well."
The Red Wings got defenseman Jonathan Ericsson back from broken ribs in that game, and Alfredsson is optimistic he can complete his comeback from back spasms Friday.
"Physically, I'm fine," the veteran forward told the team's website after participating in a third consecutive practice Thursday. "I didn't skate for 10 days at least, but I've had three good sessions here in a row and no setbacks. I'm feeling confident about coming back soon."
After spending his previous 17 seasons with Ottawa, Alfredsson has plenty of experience against the Canadiens, a former Northeast Division rival to the Senators. His 105 career points against Montreal are 19 more than he's tallied versus any other opponent.
Detroit is in the same division as the Canadiens following the NHL's realignment, but the teams have yet to meet this season. They will face each other four times in their final 32 games - the next matchup takes place in Montreal on Feb. 26.
The Canadiens haven't faced the Red Wings since a 7-2 rout Jan. 25, 2012, and haven't visited Detroit since a 4-2 loss Dec. 10, 2010. In its first visit to Joe Louis Arena in three seasons, Montreal will seek to end a string of poor defensive efforts.
The Canadiens (27-18-5) have allowed a combined 18 goals while dropping three of their last four and vented their frustrations in a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Montreal goaltender Peter Budaj, who came in to replace an ineffective Carey Price, nearly got into a fight with Penguins counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury before the referees intervened.
The teams combined for 40 penalty minutes during a scrum that included the near dust-up with 5:10 remaining.
"There was built-up tension - you know, we were losing 5-1," Budaj said. "It was a disappointing night for us."
Gustavsson is 3-2-1 with a 2.04 goals-against average in six career starts against Montreal. Price is 2-2-1 with a 2.36 GAA in five lifetime matchups versus Detroit.