MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens’ season appears to have rounded a corner, with the team stringing together its first three-game winning streak of the season.
The Habs will look to extend that streak to four when they host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
Last Thursday, the Canadiens (7-8-1) faced the Wild (5-6-2) and were doubled up 6-3 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Forward Matt Cullen celebrated his 41st birthday with a goal and assist.
Since then, Montreal has been on a tear, beating the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks in back-to-back games last weekend before defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in their first-ever game against the expansion team on Tuesday night.
The Canadiens took control of the game against the Golden Knights early, going up 2-0 just 11 minutes into the game. Right winger Brendan Gallagher, defenseman Jordie Benn and captain Max Pacioretty lit the lamp for Montreal. Pacioretty’s goal wound up being the game-winner, his second during the team’s current win streak.
“Confidence is a big game changer,” the forward said at practice on Wednesday morning. “The forwards have been producing, the defensemen have been making strong plays, getting pucks out, and the goalies have been playing great. It takes a full team effort.”
Rookie netminder Charlie Lindgren made his second consecutive start in goal for Montreal on Tuesday, improving his career total to a 5-0-0 record, making him the first Canadiens rookie goaltender to accomplish the feat since Wayne Thomas did it in 1972-73.
“Stats to me don’t mean too much,” Lindgren said. “It’s all about how you’re playing.”
The Minnesota Wild have had a tumultuous season. Like the Canadiens, the Wild also sit 13th in their conference, but they have yet to put together three wins in a row. They’ve dropped three straight, including a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
Missing the leadership of forward Zach Parise, who has yet to play a game this season because of a back injury, the Wild are trying to find their offensive stride in other ways. While they may have dropped their Wednesday night game against the Leafs, left winger Jason Zucker scored two goals in the loss, bringing his season total to three.
Right winger Chris Stewart leads the Wild in scoring with six goals, and defenseman Eric Staal leads the team with 11 points through 13 games.
On Wednesday morning, Minnesota called up goaltender Niklas Svedberg from the AHL’s Iowa Wild to replace injured Alex Stalock. Devan Dubnyk remains the starting goalie.
All-star goaltender Carey Price has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, and Canadiens fans are hoping it’s not a repeat of the same ailment that caused him to only dress for 12 games in the 2015-16 season.
There may be reason to be optimistic, though, as Price was spotted skating alone before practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Quebec.
Jonathan Drouin’s status also remains in question after the Canadiens forward had to leave Tuesday night’s game with an apparent upper-body injury. His status for Thursday’s rematch against the Wild is 50-50.
Montreal will look to extend its home record of 3-2-1 and Minnesota will try to improve their road record of 2-3-1.
The Canadiens will be without right wingers Ales Hemsky (concussion-like symptoms), defenseman David Schlemko (hand), forward Nikita Scherbak (lower body) and Price.
Minnesota will also be without Parise (back) and center Charlie Coyle (leg), who is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks with a right fibula injury.
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