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CANADIENS (21-12-3) vs. BLUES (22-7-4)
TV: RDS, FS-MW
Last 10: Montreal 7-3-0; St. Louis 5-4-1
Blue Notes: Jaroslav Halak will start in goal against his former team. Against Montreal, he's 3-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average, a .960 save percentage and one shutout.
Season series: This is the second and final game of the season between these cross-conference clubs. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2 in a shootout Nov. 5 in Montreal.
Big story: Blues captain David Backes will miss his second straight game. He had played in 274 straight games, but could not finish against the Ottawa Senators on Monday due to an upper-body injury sustained as a result of a collision with Colin Greening in the second period. The Canadiens begin a six-game road trip in St. Louis, their longest of the season, and will try to improve upon a 6-1-1 record in their past eight road games.
Canadiens: Montreal's power play has been effective all season (sixth in the NHL as of Wednesday at 22.4 percent) and especially Tuesday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. Down 1-0 in the third period; the Canadiens scored twice with the man advantage and added an empty-netter to seal the 3-1 victory. But the Canadiens will need to keep up their strong penalty killing (third as of Wednesday at 87.2 percent) with the Blues' power play at 23.1 percent. The Canadiens will look for a similar effort on the penalty kill they received Tuesday when they killed off a double minor to Brandon Prust in the second period.
"We killed that four minutes and we didn't give up many chances, and we just kept playing our game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We played the game we wanted to play, and there's no doubt the guys did a great job killing that penalty in the second period."
Blues: Injuries have hit the Blues hard. In addition to Backes, forwards Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz also missed the game against San Jose. The effect of missing those players was most felt in the early part of the game when the Sharks had three unanswered goals before Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester scored to close out the second period.
Coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed that Backes did not skate in practice Wednesday, but Sobotka and Schwartz (both dealing with muscle injuries) did participate.
"If the game was [Wednesday], neither [Sobotka or Schwartz] are ready. We'll see how they feel the rest of the day and see how they feel in the morning skate [Thursday]. I think our situation is pretty fluid right now," Hitchcock said.
Who's Hot: Max Pacioretty has four points (three goals, one assist) in his past three games for the Canadiens. ... Alexander Steen has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past five games for the Blues. The forward received a three-year contract extension with St. Louis on Wednesday.
Injury Report: For the Canadiens, forward George Parros (concussion) is out indefinitely and defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder surgery) is on injured reserve. ... Backes is out Thursday, while Sobotka and Schwartz are questionable. Defenseman Jordan Leopold (right index finger surgery) and forward Ryan Reaves (broken right hand) are on injured reserve.
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