Canadiens-Blackhawks Preview

The Associated Press

After their losing streak was extended by the hottest team in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens now have to face the team atop the league's overall standings.

That first coaching win certainly isn't going to come easy for Randy Cunneyworth.

Montreal hopes to avoid a fourth straight loss and hand the Chicago Blackhawks a rare home defeat Wednesday night.

The last-place Canadiens (13-14-7) have lost their first two games since Cunneyworth replaced the fired Jacques Martin on Saturday. Montreal's newest coach made his debut in a 5-3 home loss to New Jersey just hours after the change, and the Canadiens opened a stretch of six straight road games with a 3-2 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Monday.

"These games that we're losing have been close, they're usually one-goal games, and the solution to that problem is definitely in this dressing room," Tomas Plekanec told the team's official website.

Montreal, which has lost nine of its last 12 games (3-5-4), had its first full practice under Cunneyworth on Tuesday.

"It was a short and tough practice and that just gets you in the right physical and mental frame of mind to take on a team like Chicago - that was the intention today," Cunneyworth said.

With Carey Price having started nine straight games, Peter Budaj is scheduled to get a rare opportunity in net Wednesday. Budaj, who will make his first appearance this month, is 1-4-0 with a 3.83 goals-against average in his last four starts against the Blackhawks.

More production from left wing Michael Cammalleri would be a huge help to the Canadiens. He has no goals in his last eight games and ranks seventh on the team with six in 29 contests this season.

Chicago (21-9-4) was cooled off with a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday, snapping its season-high five-game win streak. Viktor Stalberg had a goal and an assist in the third period for the Blackhawks, who failed to score three goals for the first time in nine contests.

"We basically handed them two points,'' Stalberg said. "We have to play like we did in the third for a full game. It's as simple as that.''

Despite the loss, Chicago remained atop the league's overall standings with 46 points.

Much of that success has come at home, where the Blackhawks are 11-2-3. They've outscored opponents 11-5 during three straight wins at the United Center.

Patrick Sharp was held scoreless Tuesday, ending his career-best point streak at nine games - the longest in the NHL this season.

Marian Hossa had an assist, giving him four goals with seven assists during a six-game run.

Ray Emery started each game during the win streak but could give way to Corey Crawford against Montreal. Crawford, who began this season as the team's unquestioned starter, is 3-3-0 with a 3.93 GAA in his last eight games.

The Canadiens have won three of four against the Blackhawks - two of those victories coming in overtime. P.K. Subban's goal in the extra period gave Montreal a 2-1 home win on April 5.