Canadiens look to keep rolling against the Ducks
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The NHL's best team will seek to exploit a struggling opponent when the Montreal Canadiens meet the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night at the Honda Center.
The Canadiens enter the game with 16 wins and 34 points, both league highs. Montreal owned an even better record at this time last season, when the club won its first nine games to set a team record while going 18-4-2 through Nov. 27 of last year.
But the loss of goalie Carey Price sabotaged the Canadiens' playoff hopes. Price strained his right medial collateral ligament last Nov. 25 against the New York Rangers and missed the rest of the season. As a result, Montreal won only 20 of its final 58 games and finished sixth in the Atlantic Division.
This season, however, Price is back among the league's elite. The 2015 winner of the Hart and Vezina trophies leads the NHL with 13 wins, holds second place with a .947 save percentage and shares third place with a 1.66 goals-against average.
Supporting Price on defense is Shea Weber, who came from the Nashville Predators in exchange for P.K. Subban, a former Norris Trophy winner. All Weber has done is amass a league-high seven power-play goals and compile a plus-18 rating, the best among NHL defensemen, while joining Alexei Emelin to form a physically intimidating pairing.
“They're very demanding to play against,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told the Montreal Gazette.
Offensively, center Alex Galchenyuk is on pace to exceed the career highs of 30 goals and 56 points he established last season. Galchenyuk, 22, has nine goals and 22 points in 22 games. Right winger Alexander Radulov returned to the NHL after five seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and has nine points in his past eight games playing alongside Galchenyuk.
Tuesday night's game is the second in a five-game road trip, the team's longest this season. Montreal began the excursion with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings.
“It's a trip that's coming at just the right time for us,” Therrien told the Gazette. “It's going to be tough. We'll face good teams and I'm eager to see how we respond. We've been playing with confidence but we'll take things one game at a time.”
The Canadiens will face an opponent that remains a work in progress. Anaheim broke a three-game losing streak Saturday night with a 3-2 victory in San Jose.
“It feels good,” Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf told the Orange County Register. “We've got to feel good about ourselves and try and carry that over. Remember that feeling. Remember the work that went into it. Try and carry it over to the next one.”
Getzlaf also ended a stretch of personal futility by scoring his first goal in 15 games Saturday night. The goal was just Getzlaf's second of the season. Right winger Corey Perry has failed to score in 14 successive games. Yet Rickard Rakell owns eight goals and 12 points in 13 games, and fellow Swede Jakob Silfverberg has five goals and 11 points in his past 11 appearances.
“We haven't done enough consistently with the puck to say that we're happy or satisfied,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle told the Register and added that one problem is having “everybody on the same page on a play that we have on.”