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COYOTES AT MONTREAL: GAME PREVIEW

Tuesday, 12.13.2005 / 11:24 AM / News
Arizona Coyotes
Phoenix at Montreal
National TV: TSN,RDS; 7:30 PM EST
Phoenix Montreal
Coyotes-Canadiens Preview

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (16-12-2) at Montreal Canadiens (15-8-5).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The net has looked awfully big lately to Ladislav Nagy and Mike Johnson.

Nagy and Johnson look to continue their offensive surge as the Phoenix Coyotes bring a season-high three-game winning streak into their matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Coyotes have won three straight and five of six to move a season-best four games over .500.

Nagy leads Phoenix with 12 goals, 21 assists and 33 points, including nine goals and 13 assists in his last 13 games. Johnson, meanwhile is tied for second on the team with 10 goals to go with his 10 assists. He has five goals and four assists in his past six contests.

"Nags has been solid. He's getting better and more confident every night," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Both him and Johnson are scoring a lot of points and killing penalties. The team is relying on them right now."

Nagy went the length of the ice to score 30 seconds into overtime Saturday, lifting Phoenix to a 2-1 victory over Boston.

Nagy also assisted on Johnson's goal 66 seconds into the third period.

"I have a lot of confidence in Mike Johnson and (Jamie) Lundmark right now," Nagy said. "Everything is going in for us. So we've got to keep going."

Curtis Joseph stopped 18 shots for the Coyotes, who hadn't won in Boston since 1996. Joseph has been one of the league's best goaltenders this season with 14 wins and 2.25 goals-against average. He should receive consideration for a spot on the Canadian Olympic Team.

After winning 12 of its first 16 games, Montreal hasn't been nearly as good lately, winning only three of its last 12 games (3-5-4) and losing five of six (1-3-2).

Michael Ryder scored his team-leading 12th goal in the Canadiens' 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Saturday.

With right wing Alexei Kovalev and captain Saku Koivu sidelined by injuries, Montreal's lineup was bolstered by the return of defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek after both missed the previous three games.

While Markov was serving a suspension for shoving a linesman, Komisarek was home with his family following his mother's death.

The Coyotes are 1-7-2 in their last 10 visits to Montreal.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 12): Coyotes - 34 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Pacific Division. Canadiens - 35 points, 3rd place (tied), 11 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Nagy, 12 goals, 21 assists and 33 points; Sean O'Donnell, 59 PIM. Canadiens - Ryder, 12 goals; Koivu, 18 assists and 26 points; Steve Begin, 55 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 12): Coyotes - Power play: 19.5 percent (39 for 200), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (154 for 184), 22nd. Canadiens - Power play: 18.6 percent (33 for 177), 11th. Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (148 for 183), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Joseph (14-7-0, 2 SO, 2.15 GAA); David Leneveu (2-5-2, 3.20). Canadiens - Jose Theodore (12-6-5, 3.06); Cristobal Huet (no appearances).

2003-2004 SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: March 5, 2004; Canadiens, 4-3. At Phoenix, Theodore made 21 saves and Koivu and Richard Zednik each had a goal and an assist to lead Montreal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 7-7-1 on the road; Canadiens - 9-5-2 at home.

OUTLOOK: The Coyotes are coming off a thrilling come-from-behind, overtime victory over the Boston Bruins.  The win not only moved the Coyotes to within three points of second place in the Pacific Division, but also marked the first time this season that Phoenix has put together a wining streak of three games or more.

The Canadiens, who are in third place in the Northeast Division, have been led offensively this season by captain Saku Koivu (8 goals, 18 assists = 26 points) and Michael Ryder (12 goals, 8 assists = 20 points).  Combine that with the talent of role players Alexei Kovalev, Mike Ribero and Niklas Sundstrom and it is easy to see why the "Habs" are one of the most well-rounded clubs in the Eastern Conference.

In goal, Montral relies on southpaw Jose Theodore, who has brushed aside both controversy, and personal distractions over the past few seasons to emerge as one of the most consistent goaltenders in the East.

KEYS TO THE GAME
The key to the game for the Coyotes will be playing with the lead.  Recently Phoenix has made a living, granted a good one, coming form behind to win games.  However the Montreal Canadiens are too good of a team to spot an early lead and expect to comeback.

If the Coyotes are going to return to Glendale riding a four-game winning streak they will need to get out in front of the Canadiens early and simplify the game, thereby making Montreal try and play from behind.

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