Blue Jackets-Canadiens Preview

The Associated Press

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had little issue creating scoring chances. Their problem has been capitalizing on those opportunities.

Facing the Montreal Canadiens - with Carey Price likely in net - might not help.

Columbus visits Montreal on Thursday night for the teams' first meeting as Eastern Conference foes.

The Blue Jackets (2-3-0) scored one goal apiece in their last two games, losing to Boston and Detroit despite totaling 64 shots. They're scoring on just 7.0 percent of their shots on goal, one of the league's worst rates. The Canadiens have been much more efficient, converting 10.2 percent.

Columbus' 2-1 loss at Detroit on Tuesday came despite recording 37 shots - 18 in the first period - against backup Jonas Gustavsson, who was filling in for injured All-Star Jimmy Howard. The only goal came because of a spectacular individual play, with Cam Atkinson going the length of the ice and scoring on his own rebound.

"I thought we deserved a better fate," coach Todd Richards said. "I thought the guys worked extremely hard and I saw a lot of good things against a really good team. As a coach, it's disappointing because this is where you want the guys to get rewarded for their hard work and what they did.

"I think if we can play like that every night, we're going to win a lot more than we can lose."

The Canadiens (4-2-0) are beginning a five-game homestand after ending a four-game trip with three consecutive wins while allowing a total of two goals. The finale was a 3-0 win over Winnipeg on Tuesday, when Price recorded 36 saves for his 20th career shutout. He stopped 39 shots in a 4-1 victory over Vancouver three days earlier.

"The last couple games, (Price has) been our best player," said winger Rene Bourque, who is scoreless aside from two points in a win over Philadelphia on Oct. 5. "We need him to do that. It's great to see."

Price started the road trip in rocky fashion, however, falling into a three-goal deficit in the second period and making just 22 saves in a 3-2 defeat to Calgary last Wednesday. He has lost three of four starts against the Blue Jackets but hasn't faced them since a 3-2 shootout loss Dec. 6, 2011, in the teams' last meeting before Columbus' move to the East this season.

Should Montreal rest Price, the Blue Jackets will face Peter Budaj, who turned aside 27 shots in last Thursday's 4-1 victory in Edmonton.

Sergei Bobrovsky has also been solid for Columbus, stopping 117 of 124 shots (94.4 percent) in four games since allowing four goals in a season-opening loss to the Flames. He's 4-1-0 in five career starts against the Canadiens with a 2.41 goals-against average.

Montreal's P.K. Subban already has eight points, surpassing the six he had through the first six games last season on the way to finishing tied with Pittsburgh's Kris Letang for the league lead in points among defensemen (38).

Teammate Max Pacioretty's status is unclear after he left in the first period Tuesday with a lower-body injury.

Daniel Briere has eight assists in his last six matchups with the Blue Jackets while playing for three different teams.

The Blue Jackets have won four of their last five trips to Montreal.

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