NHL

Canadiens-Senators Preview

The Montreal Canadiens have been able to succeed even when goals come at a premium, relying on the NHL's stingiest defense.

Finding the back of the net could be easier Wednesday night in Ottawa, however, with the Senators turning to their third-string goalie.

The Canadiens (37-15-4) own a two-point lead for first place in the Atlantic Division over Tampa Bay, which is at Pacific-leading Anaheim on Wednesday night. Montreal's 2-0 victory at Detroit on Monday marked the sixth time it won while scoring two goals or fewer in the last 12 games. The Canadiens have a league-high 12 wins when scoring two goals or fewer.

Carey Price, who posted his third shutout in eight starts, is a big reason for Montreal's NHL-best 2.18 goals-against average. While he's expected to get Wednesday off, backup Dustin Tokarski is 4-3-0 with a 1.95 GAA in seven road starts and is playing behind an elite defense.

The Canadiens are surrendering 27.4 shots per game over their last seven after giving up 30.7 previously.

"I always tell the players to make sure they're in the shooting lanes, make sure they protect the house and keep teams on the outside," coach Michel Therrien said.

Montreal also ranks among the league leaders with 17.0 blocked shots per game.

"Sacrifices win hockey games, and we've had to block shots to get to where we are in the standings right now," P.K. Subban, who has blocked 98 shots, told the team's official website. "It's not an easy thing to do, and even though we've done a good job so far, there's still a lot of hockey left to be played - and a lot of shots left to be blocked."

The Canadiens limited the Senators to 25 shots and blocked 23 in a 4-1 home victory on Dec. 20 - their fourth straight in the series - then gave up 35 shots while blocking 18 in a 4-1 loss in Ottawa on Jan. 15.

The Senators (22-23-10) continue to fade further away from playoff contention, dropping five of seven and giving up four-plus goals three times in five games. They lost left wing Clarke MacArthur and goaltender Robin Lehner in Monday's 6-3 home loss to the Hurricanes when both collided in the goal crease along with Carolina's Jay McClement in the second period's final minute.

MacArthur is tied for fourth on the team with 13 goals while Lehner had started nine straight games with Craig Anderson still out suffering from a hand injury. Both are expected to be out Wednesday.

Ottawa replaced Lehner with Andrew Hammond and he allowed two goals on five shots. Hammond, who is expected to make his first career start, stopped all 11 shots he saw over 35 minutes against Detroit on Feb. 27 in his only other NHL appearance.

"It was kind of a difficult situation to go into, and I'm not going to put much weight into that and just kind of come into (Wednesday) night with a fresh mind and kind of see where it goes," he said of Monday's performance.

Hammond will have to be wary of Montreal's leading goal scorers, Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec. Pacioretty has 12 goals and eight assists in his last 19 games after recording 14 goals in his first 37. Plekanec has four goals and three assists in his last six games and three goals and six assists in his last eight contests against Ottawa. Pacioretty has five goals and five assists in his last five meetings.

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