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Coyotes continue homestand, host East-leading Canadiens

The Arizona Coyotes welcome one of hockey's most storied franchises as the Habs look to extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

For what it is worth, the Arizona Coyotes still want to show some fight and resiience down the stretch of this dismal season. That started with a 3-2 shootout victory on Throwback Night against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. They look to continue that Saturday night against one of the league's top teams, the Montreal Canadiens.

Now, nobody is looking (read: expecting) for them to win, but playing hard  and showing some true effort while still barreling toward the basement of the standings would go a long way to making fans happier with the season. And that's the plan, right?

But still, it would be sweet for the Coyotes to spring the upset especially at home, in a game broadcast Canada-wide and against one of the NHL's legendary clubs.

Matchup at a Glance

Montreal Canadiens Arizona Coyotes
Points 88 (1st Atlantic) 49 (6th Pacific)
Goals For 2.60 (21st) 2.11 (29th)
Goals Against 2.20 (1st) 3.10 (T-29th)
Power Play 16.5% (25th) 21.3% (6th)
Penalty Kill 84.6% (6th) 77.8% (27th)
5v5 SAT 48.8% (23rd) 49.0% (22nd)
SpSV% 101.9 (1st) 96.8 (30th)

View from Montreal

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As already discussed, the Canadiens are a Stanley Cup contender and are sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings. Riding the stellar goaltending of Carey Price, the Habs are in a prime position to tear through the rest of the season and the post-season as well.

However, the Canadiens are in the midst of a West Coast slump, having lost their previous three games to the California teams (4-0 to the San Jose Sharks, 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks, and a 4-3 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings).

Looking to salvage its road trip, Montreal will likely turn back to Price in net. Max Pacioretty leads the offensive attack for the Habs, posting a line of 31-25-56, making him the team's leading goal scorer by 12 over the next closest player (Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk each have 19). Meanwhile, the ever-dangerous PK Subban is the anchor on the blue line while veteran presence Andrei Markov also helps shore up the defense.

The Canadiens last visit to Glendale was not a pretty one though, as they fell 5-2 to the Coyotes. Earlier this year, these two teams squared off in the Bell Centre, which Arizona also won 3-2. The victory marked their first win in Montreal since 1996.

View from Arizona

The Coyotes are riding high coming off a very entertaining and emotional win against the Canucks on Throwback Night in Glendale. But, before that win, they had lost their previous 10 games and are full steam ahead with their rebuild and are still within just a few points of the bottom of the standings.

As is has been throughout 2015, it is all about the future for the Coyotes and also giving some fresh faces a chance to shine and make a name for themselves. Guys like Klas Dahlbeck, Tye McGinn, and John Moore are all receiving ample time to make a case and the younger players like Tobias Rieder and Mark Arcobello continue to show that they perhaps belong here next year.

Yes, a win over one of the beasts of the East would be great, but a loss doesn't necessarily hurt the franchise's plan for the future. The eyes are still on the prize, even if the prize is a longer way off in the distance.

Who's Hot

For Arizona, Rieder has two goals in his last two games while Sam Gagner has picked up a couple of assists the past two as well and scored the shootout winner against Vancouver.

David Desharnis has three assists in his past two games and Pacioretty continued to pad his goal total with one against the Kings on Thursday night.

Injury Report

Martin Hanzal (back - out for season) and Mikkel Boedker (spleen - out for season) remain the two key injuries for the Coyotes.

Meanwhile, the only injury for the Habs is defenseman Alexei Emelin, currently suffering a shoulder injury since February 18.

Puck Drop

It is an early start for this one, with the puck dropping a 5 p.m. Arizona time due to the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. Locally, the game can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona PLUS and heard on ESPN 620 AM.