A rare meeting between two of the most successful franchises in NHL history will have the stage to itself Wednesday night as the league's final contest before the All-Star break.
The visiting Red Wings (33-15-1) are already guaranteed to spend the weekend in a familiar spot atop the overall standings, thanks largely to a 17-game home winning streak that's three shy of matching an NHL record.
They extended that run and captured a seventh straight victory overall Monday, rallying for a 3-1 win over St. Louis.
"Winning never gets old," said goalie Jimmy Howard, who will make the short trip to Ottawa after this game with teammate Pavel Datsyuk for the All-Star festivities.
It's safe to say the Canadiens (18-21-9) are sick of losing after a disappointing first half that included the firing of coach Jacques Martin and a trade that shipped away forward Michael Cammalleri.
A win over Detroit, however, would provide hope for a second-half surge as Montreal tries to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Following a 3-8-0 start under interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, the Canadiens are 2-1-2 in their last five, including a win over the New York Rangers and Saturday's 3-1 victory at Toronto.
"There's still a light at the end there," forward Lars Eller said. "There are more than 30 games to go and we still have a lot of faith in this locker room. We'll play one game at a time and see what happens."
Rene Bourque opened the scoring Saturday for Montreal, getting his first goal in four games since being acquired in the deal that sent Cammalleri to Calgary.
Carey Price, the Canadiens' lone All-Star, stopped 32 shots to improve to 3-3-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average this month, but he's only beaten Detroit once in four career meetings.
These Original Six rivals have squared off just five times - the Red Wings have won four - since the start of 2004, and this is their only meeting of 2011-12.
Detroit last visited Montreal on Nov. 21, 2009, winning 3-2 in a shootout, but the Habs certainly seem to have a better chance at the Bell Centre than they would at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings, who play their next five in opponents' arenas, are just 13-13-0 on the road, although they've won in shootouts at Dallas and Phoenix during their current surge.
Detroit is looking to win eight straight overall for the first time since a nine-game run during the 2008 postseason. The Wings have allowed two or fewer goals in each game during their current streak, scoring more than three just once and winning four shootouts.
"That's the league now. They're all like this, it's 3-1 or 3-2 every night," coach Mike Babcock said Monday. "If the other team gets to three first, you're probably not going to win, so you've got to play well without the puck and wait for your chances."
Datsyuk has been creating plenty of opportunities lately, posting nine assists during the win streak. He scored for the first time in that stretch Monday on a second-period power play before setting up Niklas Kronwall's insurance tally on the man advantage in the third.
That success may be tough to replicate against Montreal, which boasts one of the league's best penalty kills at 89.2 percent.
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