Wild-Canadiens Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 29, 2012
Whether it's bad offense, great opposing goaltending or a combination of the two, the Montreal Canadiens haven't been able to score with much regularity. That definitely wasn't the case the last time they faced the Minnesota Wild. Montreal looks to avoid a season high-tying sixth consecutive loss Thursday night when it hosts a Wild club dealing with its own offensive woes. Since outscoring its opponents 14-4 while winning four in a row Feb. 5-11, the Canadiens (24-30-10) have scored 14 times during a 1-6-1 stretch that has dropped them to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Montreal has five goals during its losing streak and netted four during an 0-3-0 trip that ended with Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. "It's the worst feeling in the world," said forward Max Pacioretty, who leads the team with 25 goals but hasn't scored in the last four games. "The mood is down, everyone's upset. It's definitely not fun. We've got to find a way to break out of this." While the Canadiens haven't given interim coach Randy Cunneyworth many reasons to feel optimistic lately, they at least have some history on their side. Led by P.K. Subban's hat trick - the first by a Montreal rookie defenseman - the Canadiens won 8-1 in St. Paul on March 20 to hand the Wild their most lopsided loss in team history. Minnesota (28-26-9), a handful of points outside the Western Conference playoff picture, was hoping to arrive in Montreal with four wins in five games but lost 4-0 at home to Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Wild outshot the Kings 26-15 but had few legitimate scoring chances, with one of the best coming from defenseman Tom Gilbert in the second period of his Minnesota debut. "There was too many things missing in our game to even have a sniff offensively," coach Mike Yeo said. "Puck support, battle level, going into hard areas, making plays, executing. It's kind of a long list." Hitting the road for four of the next five games could add to Minnesota's growing list of concerns, as it's scored 20 goals during a 3-12-3 stretch away from home. The Wild posted a 3-1 victory in their last visit to Montreal on Dec. 17, 2009. Captain Mikko Koivu, who scored the eventual game-winner in that contest, will miss his seventh consecutive game Thursday and is likely out for another two weeks after re-aggravating an upper-body injury. Center Matt Cullen has chipped in with three goals in the last five games, but the Wild need better output from Dany Heatley with Koivu out. Heatley has no goals in seven contests, but the veteran forward has scored eight times in his last seven games against Montreal. The Canadiens aren't expecting much offense from forward Brad Staubitz, who was picked up off re-entry waivers from Minnesota on Monday, but he provided an immediate impact in his Montreal debut Tuesday, racking up 17 penalty minutes and fighting Tampa Bay's Pierre-Cederic Labrie. "I think it makes everybody a little more physical and a little bit braver to some extent," Cunneyworth told the Canadiens' official website. "Nobody will admit that, but I think I'm allowed to. I think that's the element we're trying to create."
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