A win over a struggling, road-weary team will put the Montreal Canadiens back atop the Eastern Conference.
Looking for its third victory in four games Tuesday night, Montreal hosts the St. Louis Blues, who are trying avoid setting a franchise record with their 11th straight road loss.
The Canadiens (40-24-9) dropped three straight from Feb. 7-12, but have lost consecutive games only once since then en route to an 11-5-0 record. That surge has moved them to within one point of East-leading New Jersey, which doesn’t play again until Wednesday against the New York Rangers.
Since dealing veteran goaltender Cristobal Huet to Washington at the Feb. 26 trading deadline, the Canadiens have been successful with youngsters Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, neither of whom have faced St. Louis.
The 20-year-old Price, who’s now the No. 1 goalie, is 5-3-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average and one shutout. Halak, who turns 23 in May, has won both his starts since being recalled last month, including a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Since Huet’s departure, Price and Halak have allowed only 20 goals with combined save percentage of .940.
“I was shocked when Cristobal got traded, but it was a big challenge and a big opportunity for me,” said Halak, 8-0 in his career at the Bell Centre. “We always win when I play here so whenever I get a chance to play here again, hopefully we can keep the streak alive.”
It was Montreal’s second shutout in three games. Price made 38 saves on Tuesday in a 4-0 win over the Devils.
The Blues, making the seventh stop on a season-high nine-game road swing, are looking for their first win as a visitor since Feb. 14. With a 5-2 loss to Anaheim on Saturday, St. Louis has been outscored 39-15 during its 0-7-3 road skid, equaling the franchise record set in 1981-82 and matched two seasons ago.
“It’s a joke is what it is,” Blues rookie defenseman Erik Johnson said. “This is just unacceptable, what we’re going through right now. There’s too much character in this room to have this happen. It’s really tough to bear.”
Since it appears St. Louis will miss the playoffs in three straight seasons for the first time in the franchise’s 41-year history, some Blues are content to focus on playing spoiler.
“We’ve got 10 games left, and obviously we are out of it,” goaltender Manny Legace said. “We’ve just got to have an attitude to go in and spoil some team’s home-ice (advantage). That’s got to be our goal. We might as well make it fun.”
The Blues, though, may find it hard to end their skid at the Bell Centre as they play there for the first time since January 2004. St. Louis is 3-6-0 with two ties in its last 11 visits to Montreal.
Jeff Woywitka had a goal and assist and Legace stopped 28 shots in the loss to the Ducks.
Legace won his only career start against Montreal more than seven years ago. Playing for Detroit, he stopped 20 shots on Nov. 1, 2000 in a 4-2 victory.