Price fully rested as Habs take on Ducks

Field Level Media

A loss to the San Jose Sharks didn't help the playoff hopes of the Montreal Canadiens. It wasn't surprising, though.

However, opting to start backup goalie Antti Niemi against what may be the best team in the Western Conference was a head-scratching decision.

But the meaning to the madness -- the Canadiens fell 5-2 at San Jose on Thursday night -- sets up a more winnable game when Montreal visits the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. Resting regular goalie Carey Price against the Sharks sets him up to be at his best against a Western Conference bottom-feeder.

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"Carey has played a lot of hockey, and we have to give him some rest," Montreal coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate, and knowing full well his decision would be second-guessed with a loss.

The loss came. In fact, Montreal has now dropped 12 consecutive games in San Jose, having last won in Northern California on Nov. 23, 1999.

Working against Julien's case, though, is the fact his squad outshot the Sharks 39-25, an effort in which every skater registered at least one shot on goal, yet were never in it because Niemi surrendered two goals by the midway point of the opening period.

Price had played in each of the Canadiens' previous 15 games, starting 14 of them, including the past eight in a row.

The Canadiens, who have lost two of three, hold the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and sit two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Montreal opened the current three-game road trip with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

As for the Ducks, they continue to come up with creative ways to lose games.

There are myriad reasons why Anaheim has plummeted to near the bottom of the Western Conference standings -- ahead of only their Southern California rivals in Los Angeles -- and they came up with a new one last outing, a 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.

Anaheim had a lead with just over a minute remaining but surrendered a pair of goals 12 seconds apart -- the winner with 52 seconds left in regulation -- in a stunning loss.

"A couple of unlucky bounces, really, off the end wall, off a skate," Ducks assistant coach Marty Wilford said after his team's latest defeat. "Four (games) in six nights for us. They played extremely hard. Had a chance to win. Playing a team that's sitting here waiting for us. They threw everything at them. Just some unlucky bounces."

Those bounces put the Ducks that much closer to being eliminated from the playoff picture and snapped a modest two-game winning streak.

About the only good news these days for Anaheim is that a pair of young players are finding their game at the NHL level.

Rookie Troy Terry, 21, netted his first career three-point outing against the Blues, while big defenseman Jaycob Megna -- a seventh-round draft choice in 2012 -- picked up first NHL goal.

"Hockey's such a game of confidence, and everyone's at their best when they're confident," said Terry, who appears to be a NHL player for good after 41 AHL games this season. "If you have a bad shift, just kind of put it behind you ... I think I felt more comfortable and more confident in every game."

--Field Level Media

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