Slumping Habs take on soaring Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The slumping Montreal Canadiens take on the surging Winnipeg Jets in an all-Canadian battle Saturday night at Bell MTS Place.

Montreal comes to town with a 4-8-1 record and without their No. 1 goalie. Carey Price suffered what the team is describing as a minor lower-body injury in Thursday's 6-3 loss in Minnesota. He is listed as day-to-day.

Al Montoya will get the start in goal against his former team. He spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with the Jets in a back-up role.

"I'm not surprised, I'm disappointed," Montreal coach Claude Julien told the Montreal Gazette following his team's latest poor outing Thursday night. "We didn't manage the puck well at all. We weren't sharp and we let them build an early lead and when we woke up, it was a little too late. That's on us and it's not acceptable. If we're planning to move up in the standings, we have to be a lot more consistent, game after game."

Winnipeg is red-hot right now, having collected points in six straight games (4-0-2) and nine of their past 10 (7-1-2).

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck has yet to lose in his eight starts between the pipes (7-0-1). He stopped 21 of 23 shots in Thursday's 5-2 victory over Minnesota.

Center Mark Scheifele notched his second career hat trick in the win.

"We were ready to play. Obviously, we want to have a good start every game. It's just a matter of ramping ourselves up before we get out there and having a good warm-up and just being prepared," Scheifele told the Winnipeg Free Press following the game.

Montreal surrendered 51 goals in its 13 games, which is third most in the NHL. Price has given up four or more in seven of his 11 starts and has looked nothing like the elite goaltender that he is.

"I think we know that Carey is a much better goaltender than what he's shown right now," Julien told the Gazette following the Minnesota game. "The only thing we can do and he can do is to keep working with him to find his groove again because he's definitely the key to us getting back into the race here and being a playoff contender."

Center Brendan Gallagher is leading the team in scoring with six goals and four assists and told reporters this week his team needs to start playing with some urgency.

"I'd trade the goals for a few wins," Gallagher said following the Minnesota game.

Meanwhile, the Jets have been focused on improving the defensive end of their game and have made significant strides. After surrendering 13 goals in a pair of lopsided losses to begin the year, Winnipeg has only given up 21 in the 10 games since.

"I think we've been coming out ready to go. We zeroed in on a few things that have given us success. And we're doing them right now. Everyone's doing their job, makes the game a lot easier," captain Blake Wheeler told the Free Press following Thursday's win. "I think we're going in the right direction. We're happy with the things that we're doing. But we're not celebrating."

Updated November 3, 2017

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