Red Wings-Canadiens Preview
Despite the absences of two of their top players, the Detroit Red Wings managed to sweep their first back-to-back set this season.
Now they get back a key cog to their offense Tuesday night as center Pavel Datsyuk is expected to make his season debut in Detroit's visit to Montreal to face the Canadiens, who seek their first 6-1-0 start in 36 seasons.
Per the team's Twitter account, coach Mike Babcock is expecting Datsyuk, the team's top-line center, to play after fully recovering from a separated right shoulder suffered Sept. 22. The injury-plagued Datsyuk was limited to 45 games last season due to injury but was fourth on the team with 17 goals and finished with 37 points.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard was placed on 48-hour injured reserve after a 4-1 win in Toronto on Friday because of a sore groin. Johan Franzen left that game due to leg spasms and was placed on injured reserve after missing Saturday's 1-0 overtime home victory over the Maple Leafs.
Jonas Gustavsson made 30 saves in his first start this season and Henrik Zetterberg scored the lone goal. Zetterberg assisted on all four goals in Friday's victory, Detroit's first road game this season.
"Hopefully, (Franzen) can be back soon," Zetterberg said. "Obviously, it's a big loss for us."
The Red Wings (3-1-1) will take their modest win streak into the Bell Centre, where Montreal (5-1-0) has won its first two games after a 7-1 drubbing at Tampa Bay on Oct. 13. The Canadiens beat Colorado 3-2 on Saturday as star defenseman P.K. Subban scored twice in a three-goal second period.
Montreal, off to its best start since going 5-0-1 in 2008-09, will try to win its first three home games for the first time since that same season while pulling off an even rarer feat.
The Canadiens haven't won six of their first seven since going 6-0-1 in 1977-78 en route to the 21st of their 24 Stanley Cup titles. They went 6-0-4 to open the 1981-82 campaign but had three ties in the first six games.
"We're focusing on the small steps that it takes to be successful. They're consistently coming through more and more now," center Manny Malhotra told the team's official website. "I think our overall game on a nightly basis is getting better."
The Canadiens won their final two games over Detroit last season to split the four-game series, scoring 10 goals in the victories after being outscored 6-2 in the two defeats. Alex Galchenyuk had one of two goals in the final seven minutes in a 5-3 home victory April 5, and Tomas Plekanec scored the first two goals in a 5-4 win in Detroit on March 27.
Plekanec has a team-best seven points so far this season (four goals, three assists), and Galchenyuk had a goal and an assist Saturday to give him at least one point in all but one game.
Franzen and Gustav Nyquist each had five points to pace Detroit in last season's series. Nyquist had scored a goal in each of the first four games this season before failing to record a point Saturday.
He tallied the overtime winner in a 2-1 victory in Montreal on Feb. 26.
Franzen had his first two goals of the season in Friday's win and has five points.
While its power play is just 2 for 21, Detroit has killed off all 17 penalties after going 5-for-5 in Saturday's game. Montreal has gone 3 for 6 with a man advantage in the last two games and has allowed five power-play goals in 25 chances.