Slumping Detroit Red wings backup goaltender Dominik Hasek has seen his playing time decrease in recent weeks. Montreal Canadiens No. 2 goalie Carey Price, meanwhile, may be needed on the ice much more than originally expected.
Making his first start for the NHL-leading Red Wings in 12 days, Hasek looks to earn his third straight shutout of the Canadiens when the teams meet Tuesday night with both backup goalies expected to play.
Hasek has lost three straight starts, posting a 4.26 goals-against average in that span, and has not played since allowing three goals in a loss to Nashville on Nov. 22. With top goalie Chris Osgood playing so well - 13-1-0, 1.79 GAA - Detroit (18-6-2) could afford to give Hasek a break.
Now, Hasek will finally return to the ice, facing a Montreal (13-9-4) team against which he is 23-10-1 with four ties and a 1.98 GAA in 41 career games. He faced the Canadiens in the only meeting between these teams last season, making 23 saves to lead the Red Wings to a 2-0 win Jan. 15. It was Hasek's second consecutive shutout of Montreal.
The Canadiens have been shut out twice this season, with both occurring within the last four games. They have also dropped four of their last five.
Montreal will be without No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet (groin) indefinitely, leaving Price - a 20-year-old rookie - to start Tuesday.
"We don't know for sure yet about Huey and how long he will need to recover," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We'll take this day by day and we'll see how he feels."
Huet, who led Eastern Conference goalies in All-Star voting through last week's results, is 7-6-3 with one shutout and a 2.35 GAA in 16 games. Price is 6-3-1 with a 2.84 GAA in 10 games.
Price is backed up by 22-year-old Jaroslav Halak, who was recalled from Hamilton of the AHL on Monday.
Price faces a tough test versus Detroit, which has won three straight - all in regulation - and has an NHL-best 38 points.
"We all know what we're capable of if we stick to the game plan and do what we're told and work our system," said Cleary, whose team was down 2-1 entering the third period.
This will be Detroit's first trip to Montreal since a 2-1 loss on Oct. 20, 2003. The Canadiens have lost three straight at the Bell Centre after starting 5-2-2 there.
Montreal's home struggles continued Saturday night with a 5-4 shootout loss to Nashville.
"The players that are supposed to do it for us right now are not doing it," said Carbonneau, who made drastic line changes after a 4-0 loss in New Jersey on Friday night.
Christopher Higgins joined Plekanec and Kovalev on one line. Michael Ryder teamed up with Mikhail Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn on another line, while captain Saku Koivu centered Bryan Smolinski and Mark Streit, who had been playing defense.
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