The Montreal Canadiens will close their collapse without two of their best players.
A day after officially ruling out Carey Price and P.K. Subban for the season's final two games, some new faces will try to help the Canadiens close their road schedule with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Montreal's demise has been long and slow since early December, and it links to the absence of last season's Hart and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender, Price.
The Canadiens (36-38-6) led the Atlantic Division after the first two months of the season but have gone 19-34-4 since Price suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain in his right knee Nov. 25. They are an NHL-worst 6-20-2 away from home since Dec. 5 and have long been eliminated from playoff contention.
Montreal has surrendered a league-worst 3.14 goals per game since losing Price and has also played lately without its best defenseman, Subban. Last season's Norris Trophy winner has been out since suffering a neck injury March 10 and won't suit up for the final two games.
General manager Marc Bergevin, team Dr. Vincent Lacroix and head orthopedic surgeon Paul Martineau made the decision to shut Price down on Tuesday.
"We just ran out of time at the end of the season. I was really close," Price said. "But at this point of the year with nothing on the line, it made more sense to end it right now."
Rookie Mike Condon has taken on the load in net since Price's injury. However, after allowing eight goals in consecutive losses to Florida following his first career shutout, it will be Charlie Lindgren who will make his first career start Thursday.
Lindgren signed a two-year deal with Montreal last week after posting a 2.08 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in his final season with St. Cloud State University.
He is among a big group of newcomers to the Habs. Veteran enforcer John Scott was called up from the AHL to play nine minutes in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Panthers, and rookie defenseman Ryan Johnston played just over 12 in his NHL debut while becoming the 15th defenseman to play for Montreal.
The fresh faces will try to help the Canadiens take two of three games from Carolina (35-29-16) after a 2-1 shootout win Feb. 7. The Hurricanes' 3-2 win Dec. 5 snapped Montreal's five-game winning streak in this series and 4-0-2 run in Carolina.
The Hurricanes, 13-6-4 at PNC Arena since Dec. 26, were eliminated from the postseason race with Saturday's 5-1 loss to Columbus despite logging points in 13 of their last 16 games. The latest dented another team's playoff hopes, winning 2-1 in a shootout at Boston on Tuesday.
"I think it's a meaningful game," coach Bill Peters told the team's official website. "So is game 81. So is game 82."
Jaccob Slavin scored his second goal and fellow rookie Noah Hanifin had the only goal of the shootout in the fifth round.
Cam Ward made 35 saves, moving his save percentage to .947 in his last three starts while dropping his GAA to 1.58. Ward has surrendered three goals with a .958 save percentage in the first two meetings of this season series.