Montreal Canadiens earn a day off practice after fifth straight victory

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MONTREAL - The surging Montreal Canadiens earned a day off on Wednesday following a fifth consecutive victory that propelled them to the top of the NHL's Eastern Conference standings.

The break came after the Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 3-1 in the Big Apple on Tuesday night to win five straight for the first time in nearly two years.

Up next for Montreal, which has 23 points after 16 games, are home games against the New York Islanders on Thursday and the Rangers on Saturday.

The two contests at the Bell Centre could prove crucial come the end of the 48-game season because the Canadiens begin a stretch of 11 games out of 15 on the road on Monday.

One pleasant surprise for the Canadiens has been the robust play of Brandon Prust, who signed a four-year deal worth $10 million last summer.

It is not clear whether rookie winger Brendan Gallagher will return to action this week. He suffered a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers last Saturday and has missed the Habs' last two games.

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