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Price - Halak duel dwarfs important points at stake in Montreal

Beyond the operatic main storyline - Halak/Price, Price/Halak - there are some crucial points at stake at the Bell Centre tonight, where the St. Louis Blues and Montreal Canadiens face off on Tuesday evening.

The Habs have a chance to win three games in a row for the first time since late October, and the Blues are looking to continue the 18-5-5 run they embarked on when coach Ken Hitchcock took over the reins from deposed head man Davis Payne.

Hitchcock credits his experience in Olympic and World Championship tournaments for providing some short-term answers to the Blues' ills, the Canadiens will hope that interim coach Randy Cunneyworth can channel the same kind of magic after starting his first NHL head coaching stint on a 1-7 down note.

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According to, the Habs have a 21.4 per cent chance of making the playoffs after raking in a dismal 39 points in 41 games, and they'll need to go something like 24-13-4 the rest of the way to have a serious shot at claiming a top-eight finish.

For a team that basically has to win two of every three games the rest of the way, a win on friendly ice would provide a welcome boost.

As everyone in the hockey world knows, Jaroslav Halak will suit up against his former goalie tandem partner Carey Price for just the second time since the former was traded away in the summer of 2010.

Like the Canadiens, the Blues are trying to gut out some injuries to key players - forwards Andy MacDonald and Alex Steen, who are both out with concussions. Other than subbing Halak in for nominal number one starter Brian Elliott, the Blues lineup will be identical to that which shut out Colorado 3-0 on Saturday. The Blues have won three straight overall.

Despite the fact that St. Louis sits fourth in the Western Conference standings and the Habs are a lowly 12th in the East (where they also own one of the conference's worst home records), Hitchcock said his team is preparing for ferocious opposition.

"They've got a veteran club, they don't turn the puck over a lot . . . they know how to play and they'll be tough for us," said Hitchcock.

The Habs, meanwhile, will likely dress seven defencemen, meaning centre Petteri Nokelainen and defenceman/forward Yannick Weber will be the odd men out.

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Montreal forward Max Pacioretty, who missed practice on Monday with the flu, said he expects to play.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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