|Canadiens riding 3-game losing skid into Dallas|
DALLAS -- The Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars meet at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night, but only one team will be looking for a bounce-back win in this interconference battle.
After losing 6-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at Bell Centre, the Canadiens (8-11-2, 18 points) have dropped three in a row and four of their last five (1-3-1).
The Montreal players had Sunday off, but coach Claude Julien was busy at the team facility along with his staff doing all he can to help turn things around.
"You look at the solutions for your hockey club and that's what we did," Julien said after practice Monday. "I think our special teams need to be better. We can't give up that many goals every game and think we have a chance to win."
"It's important that we stick with our game plan and stick with the way that we've been playing if we've been playing well. You think about solutions and what you have to do to make this team better."
The Canadiens received a boost Monday from the return of injured goaltender Carey Price (lower body), who has been sidelined since Nov. 2, to practice.
Julien said Price, considered one of the NHL's top goaltenders when healthy, will travel with the team to Dallas, but couldn't disclose whether his return to the crease is imminent.
"I would say it's encouraging that he's on the ice today (Monday)," Julien said. "Nothing's changing, I think we're still going day-to-day with him and we'll see how it goes. He's coming on the trip. I think that is all encouraging news. He knows his body than everybody else and we just want to make sure when he comes back, he's feeling good and that he ready to give us the kind of hockey we know he can give us."
Julien then named Charlie Lindgren as his starting goalie for Tuesday's contest.
Lindgren, who is 3-3-1 with a 2.49 goals-against-average and .923 save percentage, knows exactly what a start against a strong offensive team like Dallas means for any goaltender.
"Another exciting opportunity and challenge," Lindgren said. "Obviously, we know who's on the other side of the ice. You start with (Tyler) Seguin and (Jamie) Benn and (Alexander) Radulov. It's going to be a tough test, but definitely looking forward to it."
Lindgren allowed five of the six goals scored by the Maple Leafs before being pulled late by Julien. But he welcomes the opportunity to help his team atone for what has been a recent string of disappointing performances.
"We all hate losing here, it's not fun, so we're looking forward to getting back on that winning track," Lindgren said.
This game will be a homecoming for Canadiens defenseman Jordie Benn, older brother of Stars captain Jamie Benn. Jordie Benn spent six seasons in Dallas before being traded to Montreal in February.
Two other Canadiens, forward Ales Hemsky, currently sidelined with a concussion, and goaltender Antti Niemi, who spent last season with the Stars, also have Dallas ties.
The Stars (10-9-1, 21 points), on the other hand, head into this contest fresh off an impressive 6-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon.
Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock still considers his team a work-in-progress at the 20-game mark.
"I like a lot of it. We're in a dogfight and every day matters," Hitchcock said. "I think our players have realized that, that every day matters and every practice matters. I think the one concern for me is when we get down on the road, we try to hit the home run. That's what we want to avoid. I think the one thing we've been guilty in the first 20 games is absolutely swinging for the fences and trying to get it all in one shift."
However, the big stories from practice on Monday morning in Frisco were all injury-related. Defenseman Marc Methot (knee), who has missed the past four games, had an MRI exam on Monday and will miss the next four to six weeks.
And forward Martin Hanzal (hand), one of the Stars' offseason additions, will miss the next three to seven days.
"I feel for Marty because this is the third or fourth time that just as he gets up to speed and he starts to really look good, there's an injury," Hitchcock said of Hanzal after practice Monday. "You feel for a guy like that. He wants to do well. You're disappointed for him because he's such a sincere guy."
Dallas backup goaltender Kari Lehtonen is out indefinitely due to personal reasons. Even though Dallas recalled veteran goaltender Mike McKenna, 34, from the American Hockey League to back up starter Ben Bishop on Monday, Hitchcock said he'd have no reservations playing Bishop in consecutive games if necessary until Lehtonen returns.
"Ben (Bishop) is rolling with it," Hitchcock said. "Kari (Lehtonen) will be back quickly here, so we'll be OK."
McKenna's last NHL start came Feb. 26, 2015, at Colorado when he was with Arizona.
The Stars also summoned young defenseman Julius Honka, Dallas' top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, from their American Hockey League affiliate on Monday,.
Honka, 21, played six games for the Stars earlier this season before being sent down to the AHL, where he could play more regular minutes.
However, Hitchcock said after practice Monday that he's happy with the current defensive pairings and that there are no current plans for Honka to replace anyone in the rotation.
"Honka's up as a depth player," Hitchcock said. "We'll work hard with Julius and see how he does moving forward, but we're happy with the six and the way they've played. We're really happy with the pairings and we'll stay with that."
Radulov, who spent last season in Montreal before signing with Dallas this offseason, will be playing his first game against the Canadiens since changing teams.
The veteran forward, currently tied for second on the Stars with 19 points, is downplaying the perception of this game being more important for him than any others on the schedule.
"It will be a good game," Radulov said. "I have a lot of friends over there. It's going to be special for me, but we need to win and be on a winning streak. We need this one, that's the bottom line."