Canadiens-Red Wings Preview

Jimmy Howard is back in net for the Detroit Red Wings, although he has a bit of work to do to return to top form.

Working off the rust from a long stay on injured reserve, Howard will look for an improved performance Monday against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, who have been the Eastern Conference's best team since the All-Star break.

Howard returned to the starting lineup Saturday for the first time since Jan. 10, but he stumbled in his first extended minutes back from a groin injury after playing the third period of Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh. He matched his season high with four goals allowed, and Detroit (31-13-10) fell to Winnipeg 5-4 in a shootout.

"Sometimes I felt I was a little ahead of the play and there were other times when I felt I was a little behind the play," Howard told the Red Wings' official website. "But that's going to come the more I play, the more I'll feel at home out there."

Howard will start again versus Montreal (36-15-4), though he hasn't had it easy in this series. He owns an .884 save percentage - his second-worst against any opponent - against the Canadiens and has a 3.76 goals-against average while losing his last three.

While Howard tries to get back to his All-Star form, the Canadiens' All-Star netminder is in quite a groove. Carey Price owns a 1.46 GAA with 17 wins in his last 21 starts, and has allowed only one goal in each of his last three games after beating Toronto 2-1 in a shootout Saturday.

The Canadiens are 4-0-1 in their last five and have an East-best 15 points since the All-Star break.

Price's .934 save percentage ranks as the best in the NHL. He stopped 27 shots in Montreal's 2-1 overtime win at the Bell Centre on Oct. 21, then backup Dustin Tokarski made 28 saves on Nov. 16 in a 4-1 win at Joe Louis Arena.

P.K. Subban scored in that meeting, and though he doesn't have a goal in his last 10 games, he has six points in his last five. Subban played 35 minutes and 21 seconds on Saturday, marking the second-most ice time in his career behind only a double-overtime postseason loss to Boston in April 2011.

"In the offseason, my training and fitness come first," Subban said. "It's one thing to want to be a go-to guy and get paid like one, and it's another thing to go out and perform like one every night. That's my job."

Detroit point leader Henrik Zetterberg scored on Price in the first meeting with Montreal this season, and Pavel Datsyuk has seven goals in 13 career meetings against the Canadiens.

Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar have been carrying the load for the Red Wings of late. Datsyuk netted his 16th and 17th goals of the season Saturday to give him seven points in his last six games, the same total Tatar has in his past five.

Darren Helm, meanwhile, scored for the fourth time in six games to match his career high with 12.

"Helmer was dominant," coach Mike Babcock said. "I think he's come of age. He's been hurt for a couple years and was going in the right direction before he got hurt. I thought he was one of our most dominant players."

Helm's goal on Saturday came on the power play, where Detroit has scored in five consecutive games and gone 12 for 29 in the past 10 to cement its place as the NHL's best with the man advantage.

The Canadiens have only been short-handed 10 times in their last six games, and they've killed each penalty.

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