On-the-rise Canadiens welcome in fast-sinking Ducks
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The Montreal Canadiens went in to their midseason break on a hot streak and have kept padding their point total since coming back. They'll try to remain on a roll when they host the struggling Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Montreal won six of eight before its bye week and All-Star weekend ran back-to-back. That gave most players a nine-day gap between games, and the Canadiens haven't lost their momentum since returning last week.
Their 7-2-1 mark over the past 10 games allowed the Canadiens to leapfrog the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Ducks were in second place in the Pacific Division on Dec. 17, but have gone 2-12-4 since to drop to seventh in the division, though they're just three points out of the final wild-card spot.
Anaheim lost 6-1 in Toronto on Monday night, which came two days after the Ducks allowed six goals in the first period of a 9-3 loss at the Winnipeg Jets. That was Anaheim's first game back from a nine-day break.
Anaheim goalie John Gibson was the only player for the Ducks to participate in the All-Star Game on Jan. 26 in San Jose, and he gave up seven goals on nine shots for the Pacific Division team in their semifinal loss.
Gibson was replaced in the third-period of the loss to the Maple Leafs, the third straight game he has been lifted.
Gibson likely won't start against Montreal in a back-to-back situation. Chad Johnson has been the backup for Anaheim since shortly after Ryan Miller sustained a knee injury on Dec. 9, but Miller has been practicing recently and is eligible to come off injured reserve.
Regardless of who's in net, Anaheim forward Jakob Silfverberg said the Ducks need to change the way they've been defending their crease.
"Got to get more physical in front of our net," he said.
The Canadiens are expected to be without center Paul Byron, who sustained a left arm injury in the second period of a 4-3 overtime win against the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. Byron was seen wearing a sling after the game, and Montreal coach Claude Julien told reporters on Monday that he doubted Byron would play against Anaheim.
Byron, who missed all of November with a lower-body injury, has 10 goals and nine assists in 36 games this season. His value is especially evident in Montreal's won-loss record. The Canadiens are 22-10-4 when Byron's in the lineup this season and 7-8-2 when he's not.
"Paul's got that unbelievable speed, but he's also got that grit," Julien said. "He doesn't come here to goof around, he comes here to work. He comes here to do his job, and I think he sets a real good example for a lot of players, especially younger players."
Andrew Shaw could replace Byron in the lineup. Shaw has missed the past 13 games with a neck injury, but has been practicing in full since the All-Star break. Shaw has also played 36 games this season, totaling 11 goals and 13 assists.
Shaw will need to be cleared by the medical staff after Tuesday's morning skate, Julien said.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 5, 2019