MONTREAL — The Detroit Red Wings are looking to accomplish something no other team has this season — beat the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens improved to 9-0-0 at home this season following arguably their best effort of the season in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Montreal limited the Kings to just 24 shots — the second time this season it held an opponent to fewer than 28 shots on goal and the first time in six games it held to fewer than 35.
“Those controlled exits today were huge,” Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said after the win of what led his team's success. “It led to more poise through the neutral zone, more poise in the offensive zone, and I think what it really led to is that possession kept the puck out of our end and allowed us to create some offense.”
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Detroit, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks, aided greatly by another strong outing from goaltender Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period but Howard had to be sharp, facing 37 shots on the night — the fourth time in seven games he's made at least 30 saves.
It's been a turnaround of late for the veteran netminder, who started the season as Petr Mrazek's back-up. Howard's gotten the nod from coach Jeff Blashill in three straight and is expected to do the same against Montreal.
“Jimmy looked solid again. He doesn't give up and he isn't spitting out rebounds,” Blashill told reporters after the game. “He's controlling the rebounds and the puck is going to him.
“Economical is a good word,” he added. “He's been real economical in his movement, and when goalies are playing well, they under-move, they don't over-move.”
There will be one definite lineup change for Detroit on Saturday. Right winger Anthony Mantha was called up on Friday to replace Andreas Athanasiou, who suffered a knee sprain against Vancouver and will miss one to two weeks.
Mantha has enjoyed a strong season in the AHL to date, recording eight goals and two assists in 10 games.
“That's how I had to start the year,” the 22-year-old told reporters in Detroit after practice on Friday. “I talked to (coach Jeff Blashill) and (general manager) Kenny (Holland) when I left here and they wanted me to dominate in the American League. I think that's what I'm showing right now by the start I had, and I just need to bring that up here.”
Mantha appeared in 10 games with the Red Wings last season, picking up two goals and an assist. He scored both goals against Montreal.
The Canadiens earned a day off on Friday and will host Detroit before flying off to Chicago for a tilt with the Blackhawks on Sunday. Coach Michel Therrien is often reluctant to change a winning lineup and, given how well his team played against Los Angeles, will probably keep his 20-man group intact.
That group includes a balanced attack, which saw three of its four forward lines contribute to the win. Two of those goals — including the empty-netter — came from Montreal's top line, featuring center Alex Galchenyuk between Alexander Radulov and speedy winger Paul Byron.
The trio has been key in the Canadiens' two most recent wins, combining for nine points. Radulov has especially impressed and, of his nine assists on the season, eight have been primary.
“He's a relentless worker out there,” Byron said of his Radulov. “He always puts himself in smart positions to protect the puck, using his body. He's such a strong guy on the puck, you see he's always chasing, digging, and coming out of those puck battles.”