Post-break Canadiens open homestand vs. Devils
One year ago, the Montreal Canadiens were already essentially playing out the string.
After returning from their bye-week/All-Star break hiatus, though, the Canadiens are in a serious playoff push, knowing it's an opportunity they don't want to waste.
"I hope they had a good break. I think they earned it and they deserve it," head coach Claude Julien said of his players. "And now it's about getting back to work."
The Canadiens kick off their post-break schedule Saturday with a clash against the New Jersey Devils, the first of back-to-back home afternoon tilts. Montreal, which currently holds a wild card spot, will play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
"We have a big weekend, with these two first games. We just have to worry about that," said goalie Carey Price, who can't play in Saturday's game because he opted to skip the all-star festivities. "I've said it a thousand times here, we just have to take care of Saturday first."
Antti Niemi is pegged to start in goal on Saturday.
Montreal, which missed the playoffs last season by 26 points, won five of its six games prior to the break. Saturday's game is the start of a five-game homestand. The Canadiens are 14-10-2 at home.
"We have a chance to bring our home record to a more acceptable level," Julien said.
"We're not a bad home team, but we want to be better. This is a great opportunity, but at the same time, from here on in, it doesn't matter who you play because every year you see the same thing. We talk about teams that are non-playoff teams and they come in with no pressure and they play their best hockey of the year."
The Canadiens will have forward Paul Byron back in action following his three-game suspension. Forward Andrew Shaw has been out for more than a month due to injury and is practicing with the club, but he's not expected to play this weekend.
The Devils arrive on the heels of a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday night, a game in which they blew a 2-0 lead. New Jersey has just one win in the last five games and is sitting 14 points behind a wild card spot.
"We did not get to our game the way we wanted to," forward Marcus Johansson told the Bergen Record. "We wanted to get after them a little bit more and get the puck deep and go get it back. For a big part of the game, we didn't do that."
The Devils took a hit prior to the game when defenseman Sami Vatanen was put on injured reserve due to a concussion. He and Ben Lovejoy -- who is also injured -- are out of the lineup, which impacts New Jersey's defense and special teams. The Devils are also without top forward Taylor Hall due to injury.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019