Improved Prospects For Habs' Road Trip

The schedule makers seemed to be giving the Canadiens a hard time of it this week, calling for five games in eight days, all on the road. But Les Bleu, Blanc et Rouge answered the call Sunday night with a 4-3, come-from-behind win in Beantown. Suddenly, the rest of the week looks quite a bit brighter.
Of the remaining four games, only one is against a team with a winning record. That would be Thursday night’s trip to Raleigh to face the Hurricanes. But two factors make that game significantly easier for the Canadiens: The ‘Canes are a so-so team at home (5-4-0, compared with 7-4-1 on the road), and Carolina’s starting goalie, Cam Ward, is out for at least a month and a half with an MCL sprain. Backup Dan Ellis has played well (3-2-0, 2.53, .923), but beyond question, the Carolina coaching staff would much rather have Ward between the pipes.
The other games on the slate are against sub-.500 teams: the Islanders (9-11-2) on Tuesday; the Bolts (9-11-1) on Saturday; and the Panthers (6-11-5, last in the Eastern Conference) on Sunday. Tampa Bay is better than its record would indicate, but there’s a good chance that the Habs could come out of this five-game swing with something like eight points, counting the two that they already have in their pocket, courtesy of the Bruins.
A couple of final points: Montreal doesn’t feature any elite-level scorers, except perhaps Max Pacioretty. But you may want to give an edge to the team’s skaters this week. The Panthers, Islanders, and Lightning are among the worst four teams in the NHL in goals allowed per game. Tampa Bay and Carolina are #1 and #6, respectively, in goals scored per game, so you might ponder sitting Carey Price on those nights, particularly if you have a strong alternative in the crease.


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