PHILADELPHIA — Coming off their first back-to-back victories since early January, the disappointing Montreal Canadiens will try to make it three in a row Thursday night when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers, who snapped a four-game losing streak with Tuesday night’s overtime win in Raleigh.
The Canadiens (22-25-6, 50 points) have struggled since losing top defenseman Shea Weber to a foot injury. They have gone 7-10-2 in 19 games without Weber, dropping out of playoff contention.
Weber, who was averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time before his injury, skated before the Canadiens’ practice on Wednesday but is not expected to be in the lineup on Thursday night.
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Despite the loss of Weber and his hard, accurate shot from the blue line, the Canadiens? power play has been excellent and enters Thursday night’s game ranked seventh in the NHL and 5-for-10 in its last two games.
“Our power play got better because we stuck with it,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien told the Montreal Gazette. “All the pain that we went through earlier on is starting to pay off. But it’s not because Shea isn’t there. I know we rely on his shot a lot. What I think you’re seeing right now are different options, but we’re still missing that weapon.”
The Canadiens also have scored 17 power-play goals in their last 17 games (21.6 percent).
Montreal received second-period power-play goals from defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Artturi Lehkonen just 1:38 apart in its 4-1 home win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
“Right now, we have everybody involved on the power play, everyone’s contributing,” said left winger Max Pacioretty, who is third on the Canadiens with 13 power-play strikes. “Even when we don’t score, we’re getting momentum, and that carries over to our 5-on-5 play.”
Tomas Plekanec also scored and goaltender Carey Price made 25 saves in the win.
The Flyers (25-19-9, 59 points) keep toggling in and out of playoff position. The return of goaltender Brian Elliott should help their chances of climbing the Eastern Conference standings.
In his first game back from a lower body injury, Elliott stopped 27 of 28 shots, including six in overtime to pick up the win.
“I haven’t seen that many shots in the last little bit, but you’re in a groove in the middle of the season,” Elliott told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s not like starting the season fresh.”
Unlike the Canadiens, the Flyers are struggling on the power play.
They went 0-for-5 against the Hurricanes and have just four power-play goals in their last 10 games (4-for-30). They are ranked 15th in the NHL at 20.4 percent.
“Even though we didn’t score, I thought it set the tone and earned some momentum back,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux has 58 points in 53 games this season but said he and his linemates, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, know they need to start playing better.
“Some guys are playing their best hockey of the season, but personally, I’ve got to step up and bring more for the team,” he said. “We played good, but I don’t think we played at our full potential.”