Flyers try to stay hot as they visit Montreal
By John Kreiser
FLYERS (20-7-5) at CANADIENS (18-7-2)
RDS (HD), TSN (HD), TCN-Philadelphia
Last 10 --
Philadelphia 6-1-3; Montreal 5-4-1
Season series --
The teams are meeting for the third time this season, all in the last month. Carey Price led the Canadiens to a 3-0 victory at the Bell Centre on Nov. 16; six days later, the Flyers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Habs 3-2.
Big story --
Pittsburgh has gotten a lot of attention for its 12-game winning streak, but by beating the Penguins 3-2 at home on Tuesday, the Flyers passed them for the top spot in the overall standings with 45 points. They've won three in a row and are 5-0-1 in their last six games. Montreal is still on top of the Northeast Division, but the Habs' play has been slipping during the last couple of weeks. They're coming off a 3-1 loss at Toronto on Saturday.
It's nice to be the king -- and the Flyers are on top of the heap, at least for one day, after ending the Penguins' streak.
"We talk about trying to get the top spot, trying to be the best in the League, and tonight was one of those opportunities where we could do it ourselves," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after the win. "We didn't have to have help from anyone else, and it was great. Pittsburgh is playing really well and they played hard again tonight, so to get a win is nice. It puts you where you want to be, but you get to enjoy it for about three minutes and then move on and start thinking about Montreal. That's going to be a tough game."
Former first-rounder Max Pacioretty made headlines earlier this season when he said he wanted to stay at AHL Hamilton to get ice time rather than be a fourth-liner in Montreal, where he had 3 goals and 14 points in 52 points last season. He tore up the AHL and was recalled by the Canadiens on Sunday after scoring his 17th goal of the season -- but if Tuesday's practice was any indication, he'll be playing as a top-six forward.
"I talked to coach (Martin) and he told me: 'Play the game that's made you successful, the way you're playing down there,' " Pacioretty told the Montreal Gazette. "That's definitely a big relief to hear that from him. He saw my game and I'm going to be more relaxed knowing that he's in my corner."
Who's hot --
Philadelphia's Claude Giroux had a goal on Tuesday and has 5 points in his last five games. Goaltender Brian Boucher has won Philadelphia's last three games, surrendering just four goals. … Michael Cammalleri had Montreal's lone goal on Saturday and has scored in three of the Canadiens' last four games.
Injury report --
The Flyers have reactivated goalie Michael Leighton (back surgery) and say defenseman Matt Walker will need hip surgery. Neither has played this season. … The Canadiens hope to get center Scott Gomez (lower body) back for this game after he missed games at Buffalo and Toronto. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) is doubtful. Defenseman Josh Gorges (undisclosed) missed practice Monday but told the Habs' website there's no way he's missing the game.
Stat pack --
Philadelphia has won three of the last five meetings with the Canadiens, but the Habs are 12-4-0 in the last 16.
Puck drop --
Montreal fans can wish their favorites a Merry Christmas this week. The Canadiens are home Wednesday and Thursday (against Boston) -- and don't return to the Bell Centre until Jan. 2. The pending road trip makes this even more of a must-win game for the Habs.