Canadiens-Jets Preview

Frustration is growing for interim coach Randy Cunneyworth and
the Montreal Canadiens.

The Winnipeg Jets would like to keep Montreal frustrated for at
least one more game.

Cunneyworth gets a fourth chance at his first win when the
Canadiens visit the Jets on Thursday night.

Montreal (13-15-7) has dropped four in a row, with three of
those defeats coming since Cunneyworth replaced the fired Jacques
Martin behind the bench.

While the slide is still two shy of the Canadiens’ season-high
six-game skid Oct. 13-24, criticism of Cunneyworth is going beyond
on-ice performance.

He’s the first non-French speaking coach of the Canadiens since
Al McNeil in 1970-71, and the Quebec government, media, fans, Hall
of Famer Guy Carbonneau and former general manager Serge Savard all
criticized his promotion.

For Cunneyworth, who has pledged to learn French, a victory may
help the controversy lose some steam.

A 5-1 loss at Chicago on Wednesday certainly didn’t help his
cause, as Montreal surrendered five unanswered goals. Some of the
Canadiens let their emotions show in the dressing room after the
defeat.

“We have some angry guys in there. Some frustrated guys, because
we want better results,” Cunneyworth said. “We’ll see if we can
kind of turn it in our direction and use that frustration to our
advantage (in Winnipeg), but obviously we have to get our heads
into it for a complete game”

Montreal certainly played a complete game in its last visit to
Winnipeg (15-13-5) on Oct. 9, winning 5-1 to spoil the Jets’ return
to the NHL.

Tomas Plekanec had one goal and two assists in that meeting, and
leads the Canadiens with 27 points despite ranking last with a
minus-8. The center was a minus-three while assisting on Montreal’s
lone goal – a power-play tally by Andrei Kostitsyn – on
Wednesday.

Erik Cole was kept off the score sheet by the Blackhawks, but
still has five goals and two assists in his last seven games and
leads the Canadiens with 13 goals on the season.

He had a five-game goal-scoring streak against the
Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise halted in October.

Carey Price figures to be back in net for Montreal after being
rested Wednesday, as backup Peter Budaj made 23 saves but fell to
1-4-0.

Price has a 4.08 goals-against average during a personal
three-game slide, but he stopped 30 shots at Winnipeg two months
ago.

The Jets are 11-5-1 at the loud MTS Centre, but fell to 2-1-1 on
their current six-game homestand after losing 3-2 in a shootout to
the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

“Right now, when I look at our team play, we don’t have the
chemistry that we had before,” coach Claude Noel said. “It doesn’t
seem to be the cohesiveness that we’re looking for that we had
before.”

Evander Kane leads the Jets with 15 goals and 25 points, but he
has just one assist in his last four games. He failed to score
against the Islanders despite putting six shots on net.

Ondrej Pavelec made 31 saves Tuesday for Winnipeg as his second
consecutive quality effort went for naught. He’s allowed three
goals on 61 shots over his last two starts, but has lost both.

“It’s my job to make some saves,” Pavelec said. “It was
frustration to see our guys in their zone just throwing the pucks
away. We didn’t (get) traffic in front.”

Pavelec made only 17 saves in the October meeting with the
Canadiens.