Habs seek to snap skid as Blue Jackets visit
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While the Montreal Canadiens find themselves slumping at an inopportune time, the Columbus Blue Jackets are playing some of their best hockey on the road.
The Canadiens look to avoid equaling a season high with their fifth consecutive defeat Tuesday night, while trying to keep the Blue Jackets from winning a 2018-19-best fifth straight road contest.
Overachieving Montreal has been one of the bigger surprises on the NHL season and currently finds itself tied for an Eastern Conference wild-card position. However, the Canadiens are 0-3-1 following an 8-1-1 stretch. Now, the Canadiens return home following a trip during which they dropped all three games in regulation -- the first time they were held without a point in three consecutive contests all season.
"We don't need a wakeup call," coach Claude Julien told Montreal's official website. "We know exactly where we are. We knew exactly where we stood. Nobody got comfortable here.
"We're going through a tough time right now."
The Canadiens were outscored 12-4 on the trip that ended with a 6-3 loss at Florida on Sunday. Carey Price stopped 24 of 26 shots in relief of Antti Niemi, who gave up three goals on nine shots in the game's first 14 minutes.
Price is 0-3-1 with a 3.19 goals-against average in his past four appearances after posting a 1.43 GAA while winning his previous seven starts.
Montreal's offense is struggling, too. The Canadiens went 0-for-8 on the power play during the road trip. Jonathan Drouin has failed to record a point in four straight games after totaling nine points in his previous three games. Canadiens points-leader Max Domi scored twice against the Panthers, but he has produced points in just two of the past six games.
"We've got to be better," said Domi, who has a career-high 19 goals. "The next game is absolutely huge. We've got to start winning some hockey games. We know what we have to do."
When Montreal won 4-1 at Columbus on Jan. 18, Domi assisted on both of Joel Armia's goals, Tomas Tatar also tallied twice, and Price made 34 saves.
That game began a season-high, five-game losing streak for the Blue Jackets, who have since followed with wins in five of their past seven contests while trying to better their playoff hopes. Four of those victories came on the road, a winning stretch away from home in which Columbus has totaled 19 goals.
The Blue Jackets, though, will look to rebound after losing for the fifth time in the past six at home, 5-1 to the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
"We're looking forward to going up to Montreal, it's going to be a big game (Tuesday)," forward Boone Jenner said, according to the Blue Jackets' official Twitter feed. "We've got to move past this."
The subject of trade rumors, Columbus' Artemi Panarin has three goals and three assists in the past two away from home and ranks among the league leaders with 38 points on the road. Panarin, however, was held without a point against Montreal last month and will not play Tuesday.
Hours before game time, the Blue Jackets announced Panarin would be held out due to illness. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen insisted Panarin is not being held out in advance of a possible trade before Monday's deadline.
After Columbus backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo made 15 saves against Tampa Bay, Sergei Bobrovsky will be back in net Tuesday in the second half of a back-to-back set. Bobrovsky owns a 2.50 GAA while winning a season-high four straight road starts.
Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray did not make the trip after he left the Monday contest due to an upper-body injury. In his sixth NHL season, Murray has a career-high 29 points.
Center Brandon Dubinsky was activated off injured reserve and expected to make his first appearance since missing seven games with a hip injury. Left winger Markus Hannikainen was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Feb. 14, with an illness after missing the last two games.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 19, 2019