Winners of three of their past four games, the Montreal Canadiens will look to continue their good form when they host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.
The Canadiens are coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season, a 4-1 road victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Down 1-0 after the first 32 minutes, Montreal scored four unanswered goals to hand the Penguins their first regulation loss in Pittsburgh since Oct. 19.
After an eight-game losing streak (0-5-3), Montreal now appears to be back on track thanks to a team-wide defensive improvement. The Canadiens have allowed only seven goals over their past four games, and their penalty killers have conceded just one goal from their opponents’ past 17 chances with the man advantage.
Though Montreal’s season-long penalty-kill percentage is still one of the league’s lowest due to some early struggles, Canadiens coach Claude Julien credits his players with doing “a little bit of everything” to tighten up their short-handed play.
“Every time something doesn’t go well, you try to fix it and try and modify the situation,” Julien said. “I think our guys have done a better job at different things — blocking shots, being in the right place, taking those seam passes away, making sure our clears have been better.”
This is already the eighth time this season that the Canadiens have played on consecutive nights. Montreal is 2-3-2 in the second game of those back-to-backs.
One of those losses came in the Canadiens’ first meeting with the Senators this season. Brady Tkachuk scored 38 seconds into overtime to give Ottawa a 2-1 victory on Nov. 20 in Montreal.
The Senators have won two of their past three games, and they also head into Wednesday’s game riding the momentum of a big victory. Ottawa collected a 5-2 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins on Monday.
The newly formed line of Anthony Duclair, Chris Tierney and Vladislav Namestnikov combined for eight points against Boston, with Duclair recording two goals and an assist. Duclair now has five goals in his past three games, and he looks to be breaking out in his first full season with Ottawa.
“The game’s fast, and he’s our fastest player,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said about Duclair. “He’s making plays. Certainly he’s confident right now, and he’s been reliable. Sometimes that’s with confidence, sometimes with age, but he’s been good for us all year.”
Anders Nilsson will start in net on Wednesday, as Craig Anderson is sidelined due to a lower-body injury. Nilsson snapped a personal four-game losing streak by saving 38 of 40 shots against the Bruins.
Since Carey Price faced the Penguins on Tuesday, making 33 saves, it is likely that Canadiens rookie Cayden Primeau will get his second career start on Wednesday. Primeau saved 32 of 35 shots in his NHL debut, a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi (concussion) and Matthew Peca (lower-body injury) are questionable for the Canadiens’ lineup. Peca left the Tuesday game after an awkward entanglement with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist Tuesday, extending his hot streak. He has scored in each of his past four games, notching four goals and two assists in that span.
Ottawa is 3-8-1 in its past 12 games against Montreal.
–Field Level Media