Stars head to Montreal to face Canadiens Tuesday night
The Montreal Canadiens will try and finish out an unexpectedly strong first month of the season against the Dallas Stars at Bell Centre on Tuesday.
The Canadiens, who finished 14th in the Eastern Conference last season, are 6-2-2 and in third place in the Atlantic Division heading into their meeting with the Stars. After a series of offseason changes by general manager Marc Bergevin which included the trading of captain Max Pacioretty and scoring winger Alex Galchenyuk, they have been playing a faster, more aggressive style of game.
They had five points at the same point last season.
"My expectations as a general manager are to have a team that will compete every night and would be in a position to compete for a playoff spot," Bergevin told montrealcanadiens.com. "I said it at the start and it hasn't changed. A catchphrase I like to say to the players is 'competing is not an option.' There will be nights where we don't win and we won't get two points, but to compete you have to give the necessary effort. So far we've had the results that come with it."
A big part of the Canadiens success has been a balanced offense. They have three lines that have contributed, led by the top line of Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar (who came over in the Pacioretty deal) combining for 10 goals. Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi (acquired for Galchenyuk) and Artturi Lehkonen have nine and Paul Byron, rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia have eight.
Another key has been the play of goaltender Carey Price who is off to a 4-1-2 start with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He is coming off a shutout against the Boston Bruins on Saturday which allowed the Canadiens to pass the Bruins in the standings.
"We're resilient. We're playing really hard with lots of speed," veteran defensemen Jordie Benn told montrealcanadiens.com. "We have a good work ethic. Last year it was a learning experience for everyone and now it's fun to come here with a completely different atmosphere from last year."
The Canadiens are starting a three-game homestand against the Stars who will see forward Jason Spezza play his 1,000th NHL game.
The Stars who are off to a mediocre start at 5-5-0 and are 0-3-0 on the road. Part of the problem has been a lower body injury to forward Alexandre Radulov which has kept him out of the lineup for the past four games. He could return against the Canadiens.
Radulov had four goals and six assists playing with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in the first five games of the season. The line combined for 29 points.
Since his injury, Benn and Seguin have just one assist between them.
Stars rookie coach Jim Montgomery is thinking about shaking up his lines to try and spark some offense against the Canadiens.
Among the duos he was experimenting with Monday were Spezza with Benn, and Seguin with Radulov.
"We have a large enough sample size here that they're not getting enough done," Montgomery told dallasstars.com. "So maybe splitting them up might rejuvenate them and also give some life to our team on a couple of lines."
"We've just got to play better on the road, myself in particular leading the way," Benn said after the Stars lost 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, last in the Eastern Conference. "It's not good enough. You're not going to win these games if your best players aren't your best players. It's pretty simple."