Canadiens take aim at St. Louis' home-ice blues
The Montreal Canadiens visit the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, although it might be difficult to tell which team has the home-ice advantage.
Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars dropped the Blues' record in home games to 10-13-2. This lack of consistency at home is a major reason why St. Louis (17-20-4) continues to languish at the bottom of the Central Division standings.
Improved play in their own building is what head coach Craig Berube considers "the biggest thing" for the Blues as they enter the second half of their schedule, with just 38 points gained from the first 41 games.
"I think as a team we're playing a lot better. We're playing good enough to win a lot of games but we find ways to lose games," Berube said. "That's got to change and our home record's got to change, for sure."
The Canadiens (23-16-5) also haven't been particularly impressive on home ice, with an 11-9-2 record in Montreal. The team has countered that mark, however, with one of the league's better road records -- Montreal is 12-7-3 in away games, including a 3-2 win over the Red Wings in Detroit on Tuesday.
"We've probably stuck to our game plan a little better on the road," said winger Brendan Gallagher.
"We're a team that needs to play a pretty simple game, outwork teams, and it's easier to do that kind of stuff on the road. I think when we do go back home, that's probably something we can focus on a little bit better."
Gallagher was the hero in the first meeting between the Canadiens and Blues this season, scoring with just 11 seconds left to give his club a 3-2 victory on Oct. 17 in Montreal. Gallagher also scored against Detroit on Tuesday, though the goal was just his second in his last 12 games.
Several of Montreal's top scorers are going through similar slumps.
Max Domi still leads all Canadiens players in points, although he is in the midst of a 14-game goal-less drought. Tomas Tatar has three goals in his past 18 games, while Jonathan Drouin has three goals in 16 games.
Andrew Shaw, meanwhile, has missed Montreal's last four games due to a neck injury. Shaw is eligible to be activated off the injured reserve, but it isn't certain if he'll return on Thursday.
St. Louis center Tyler Bozak is day-to-day with an upper-body injury that has sidelined him for the previous two games.
David Perron scored the Blues' lone goal against Dallas, giving him a career-best eight-game point streak. Perron has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) over that stretch.
After Montreal backup goalie Antti Niemi made 30 saves in the win over the Red Wings, regular starter Carey Price is likely to get the call against the Blues. Price has a 1.69 goals against average and a .944 save percentage over his past six games.
The Blues are just 2-5 in their last seven home games and might welcome an upcoming extended road stretch. After facing the Canadiens on Thursday, the Blues will play 13 of their next 16 games away from St. Louis.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 9, 2019