Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens take on the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
The Montreal Canadiens are off to an unexpectedly good start this season with a 4-1-2 record but are facing their first bit of adversity as they prepare to host the Calgary Flames at Bell Centre on Tuesday.
The Canadiens twice blew two-goal leads and ultimately lost 4-3 in overtime Saturday to the Ottawa Senators, another early-season surprise.
"You have to learn from losses," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher told montrealcanadiens.com after practice Monday. "You learn more from a loss than you do from a win. We made some mistakes. We understand the errors we made.
"After our previous losses, we've done a pretty good job of responding. This is a little bit of a different situation, where we let a lead slip away. Now we have to react the appropriate way, come back strong with a good effort and learn how to play in those situations."
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who gave up four goals on 34 shots against the Senators, will be under the microscope. He gave up a weak goal on a shot along the goal line by Ottawa's Mikkael Boedker that cut the Canadiens lead to 3-2 on Saturday.
Price, who is in the first year of an eight-year, $84-million contract that pays him $15 million this season, ranks 34th in the NHL in save percentage (.904) and 25th in goals against average (2.57).
The Canadiens are expected to go with the same lineup which means forwards Charles Hudon (healthy scratch), Tomas Plekanec (back) and defensemen Victor Mete (hand) could be out. Mete could play which could result in Karl Alzner, who had a rough night against Ottawa, being scratched.
The Canadiens must improve in the faceoff circle. They are last in the NHL with a 42.6 winning percentage. They lost both faceoffs in overtime against the Senators, when possession is critical in a 3-on-3 situation, before losing the game.
"At the end of the day, I think there's a lot of things that go into being a good faceoff guy," Canadiens coach Claude Julien told The Montreal Gazette. "For certain guys, it's the experience of going through the league at least once, knowing the centremen they're taking them against. You learn to see the tendencies. You also understand that there's some experience that comes into play.
"There's also guys that have a real good eye-hand co-ordination that's unbelievable. Some of it is determination. There's so many things that come into play as far as being a centerman."
The Flames are ranked eighth in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at 52.3 percent.
Calgary is coming off a 4-1 win against the Rangers in New York on Sunday.
Elias Lindholm, 23, whom the Flames acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes along with Noah Hanifan for Dougie Hamilton in June, is tied for the team lead in goals with five.
He has been playing on Calgary's top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
"We built some chemistry pretty early in the season," Gaudreau told the team's website. "He's a great teammate and a great player, a smart player, so it makes it easier to (transition) when you're playing with that good of a guy and that skilled of a player. Hopefully we can keep building off of it because I know all three of us have five, six years left on our contracts in Calgary."
Calgary coach Bill Peters, who also joined the Flames from the Hurricanes, coached Lindholm in Carolina after the Hurricanes selected him with the No. 5 pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
"Lindy has been a good player for a long time," Peters said on calgaryflames.com. "He probably came into the league a little bit early. He played right after he got drafted and then got hurt and went down to the American league and back up, so I'm very familiar with his path. But he's a very smart player, a very reliable player who can play center and wing, real good on face-offs. He's a good player and that's why he got drafted where he got drafted and we're excited to have him."