The Montreal Canadiens will try to slow Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight without the services of top defenceman Roman Hamrlik.
The club was quiet on the nature of Hamrlik’s injury and how long the Czech defenceman will remain sidelined for whne asked on Thursday morning.
The Canadiens (21-16-3) are having trouble at the other end of the ice these days. Montreal has averaged 2.08 goals while going 3-8-1 since Dec. 10.
It’s at least shown a few positive signs in its last two games. The Canadiens closed a seven-game road trip Friday by taking 48 shots in a 3-2 win at Florida, then unloaded 50 at Atlanta’s Ondrej Pavelec in a 4-3 overtime loss Sunday.
“We can take a lot of positive things out of tonight,” said defenseman James Wisniewski, who has two goals and three assists since being acquired from the Islanders on Dec. 28. “… If we’re going to keep peppering goalies with 50 shots, we’re going to come out on top more than we’re not.”
The addition of Wisniewski has certainly had a positive effect on Montreal’s power play. The Canadiens are 4 for 7 with the man advantage over the last two games and 14-2-2 when they score on the power play.
“He’s got great vision and he has a good shot,” coach Jacques Martin told NHL.com of Wisniewski. “He really helps in the offensive part of the game.”
It was Montreal’s penalty kill that helped earn the team two points in Pittsburgh on Oct. 9 in the teams’ first meeting since the Canadiens’ seven-game playoff series victory in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. Montreal killed six power plays in the first two periods to stay within 2-1, then Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez scored 24 seconds apart in the game’s final three minutes to lift the Canadiens to a 3-2 win.
Cammalleri, who hasn’t scored in seven games, has tormented the Penguins. Since Game 1 of the playoff series, he has nine goals and an assist in eight games versus Pittsburgh.
After looking flat in the Winter Classic, the Penguins put on an impressive display indoors in their latest game. They also showed there’s a lot more to them than Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins try to build off their highest-scoring performance of the season – one in which Crosby had but a single assist – as they visit the Bell Centre on Thursday night to face a Montreal Canadiens team desperately seeking offense from any source.
Pittsburgh (26-12-3) couldn’t get much going in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Dec. 29, and those issues extended to the less-than-ideal ice surface at Heinz Field on Saturday.
“I was pretty happy with the way we kept playing the game (after the early lead),” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Now the challenge is to bottle that a little bit and get ready to go (at Montreal).”
Chris Kunitz had his second career hat trick, and six Penguins scored goals. None came off the stick of Crosby, who’s now gone three games without adding to his NHL-best 32 tallies.
Crosby assisted on Kunitz’s first goal Wednesday – his first point since his 25-game streak ended against the Islanders – but his teammates are happy to show there’s more depth beyond their superstar captain.
“It’s nice that other guys are getting confidence,” Kunitz said. “We don’t have to rely on Sid every night.”