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newjerseydevils.com – The Devils open the new year looking for their third win in four games tonight, when they host the Montreal Canadiens at Prudential Center (7 p.m., MSG Plus, WFAN 660 AM).
New Jersey closed out 2008 with Wednesday's 4-2 defeat at Dallas. After suffering consecutive shutouts, the Devils scored four goals in back-to-back victories. But the club endured a tough second period against the Stars as they were outshot 19-2 and allowed two goals.
"The second period was a lack of competitiveness and a lack of intensity," head coach Brent Sutter said. "It was probably our worst period all season."
The Devils (21-12-3) have also given up seven goals in their last two games after giving up no more than two in five previous contests.
Scott Clemmensen has started the past two, but had a better performance in his only meeting with Montreal, making 25 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory on Dec. 6. Clemmensen is 13-6-1 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .923 save percentage this season.
Tonight's game could be another tight one as Montreal and New Jersey rank among the league's best defensive squads. The Canadiens have allowed 2.42 goals per game, while the Devils have surrendered 2.56.
Zach Parise, who scored the winning goal last month against the Canadiens, was held scoreless against Dallas but has three goals in his last three games. He leads New Jersey with 21 goals and 44 points.
Montreal has won three of the last four meetings between the teams, but New Jersey has taken five of the last six at home.
Winners of three straight, the Canadiens (21-9-6) will not have Alex Tanguay available for tonight's game.
Tanguay will miss six weeks after injuring his left shoulder in Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win in Tampa Bay. The winger, who was second on the team with 10 goals and third with 26 points, absorbed a hard check into the boards from the Lightning's Evgeny Artyukhin and left in the first period.
Montreal was already without captain Saku Koivu, who has not played since Dec. 11 due to a high ankle sprain, as well as Christopher Higgins (groin), Mathieu Dandenault (broken arm) and enforcer Georges Laraque (groin).
On Thursday, the Canadiens called up forwards Max Pacioretty and Kyle Chipchura, defenseman Yannick Weber and goaltender Marc Denis from their AHL affiliate in Hamilton.
Without Tanguay and much scoring in Tuesday's game, Montreal instead relied on its defense as Carey Price stopped 21 shots to win for the fifth time in six games. The Canadiens, 5-0-1 in that span, have not allowed more than three goals in 12 consecutive games.
The recall of Denis means Jaroslav Halak will probably start in place of Price. Halak has never faced New Jersey and hasn't played since Dec. 20, but has consecutive victories in his last two starts.
An already struggling Montreal power play could take a hit without Tanguay, who was tied for the team lead with four power-play goals. The Canadiens have scored once in the last 13 times with a man advantage, and rank near the bottom with a 14.1-percent conversion rate.