Thrashers-Canadiens Preview

On the cusp of tying a franchise record for inept offense isn’t

likely to be much fun, and the Montreal Canadiens certainly feel

that way.

A meeting with the Atlanta Thrashers could solve that

problem.

The Canadiens look to avoid an 83-year-old record by scoring a

goal for the first time in four games when they face the Thrashers

at Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

Montreal (40-29-7) has been outscored 11-0 during a three-game

slide after winning 8-1 in Minnesota on March 20 to cap an 8-3-0

stretch that included a 3-1 victory at Atlanta (32-31-12) on March

1.

Getting blanked for a fourth consecutive game would equal the

Canadiens’ team record set Feb. 14-26, 1928.

“It’s just a matter of us not doing the things we have to do,”

said captain Brian Gionta, the team leader with 26 goals. “It’s

easy to point to offense for not scoring but it’s a reflection of

our overall game right now.”

The Canadiens got closer to matching their dubious mark

Saturday, losing 2-0 to Washington while being outshot 33-18.

“Nobody’s really having much fun right now,” said Carey Price,

who made 31 saves against the Capitals. “I think we just used (the

goals) all up in Minnesota, but we’ve just got to get back to

basics and we can’t dwell on this. We’ve just got to pick our heads

up and know we can do it.”

Montreal’s punchless stretch has put it in the thick of the

battle for seeding, although the team appears to have enough margin

for error to reach the playoffs.

The Canadiens are tied with the New York Rangers for sixth in

the Eastern Conference, seven points ahead of ninth-place Carolina

but just two in front of Buffalo in eighth. The Hurricanes have a

game in hand on all of them.

“Those teams are coming up and we can’t get scared and start

gripping our sticks even more because that’s not going to help,”

Price said.

Price has made a strong case for his first Vezina Trophy,

ranking among the league leaders with 34 wins and eight shutouts

while compiling a career-best 2.40 goals-against average. However,

he’s struggled mightily in losing his last four starts, posting a

4.34 GAA.

Price made 40 stops versus the Thrashers on March 1, ending a

personal three-game slide (0-1-2) against them that included a 4.23

GAA.

Gionta has eight goals over his last 10 matchups with Atlanta,

while Tomas Plekanec – the team leader with 53 points – has three

and four assists over the past six.

The Thrashers begin this five-game road trip trying to remain

mathematically alive in the playoff race, but that could change at

the conclusion of this game. They’re 11th in the conference and

nine points back of the Sabres, who visit Toronto.

Atlanta helped its bleak cause with a 5-4 shootout win over

Ottawa on Sunday, but realize the gap in the standings is likely

insurmountable.

“We’re trying to build something, not just for this year, but

for the long term,” said captain Andrew Ladd, who scored the only

goal in the tiebreaker Sunday. “We’ll just keep playing hard and

see what happens.”

Bryan Little has three goals in the last five games, one in each

of the last two. He has one goal in seven visits to Montreal.