Habs visit Devils hoping to stay hot in new year

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens ended the 2014 calendar year on a high note. They hope to stay hot in the new year when they visit the New Jersey Devils in Friday's clash at Prudential Center.

Montreal enters tonight on a four-game winning streak and also has earned victories in seven of its last eight games. Despite the surge, the Canadiens are still two points behind Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Habs do hold two games in hand over the Lightning, who also play tonight in Pittsburgh.

The Canadiens last played on Tuesday when they overcame some late Florida heroics to record a 2-1 shootout victory. The close win pushed Montreal's record on a five-game road trip to 3-0 and the club is now 11-7-1 as the away club this season. Michel Therrien's team will cap the trek tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

P.A. Parenteau netted the lone marker in the shootout on Tuesday, while Brendan Gallagher posted the regulation score for the Habs.

Dustin Tokarski was less than two minutes away from a shutout, but Florida's Nick Bjugstad tied the game at 1-1 with 1:49 left in regulation. Montreal's backup performed well in the win, stopping 36 shots over the game's first 65 minutes and all three chances in the breakaway rounds.

"This year he's been a rock," Gallagher said of Tokarski. "He's been very consistent when he's been in net."

Carey Price expects to be back in net tonight for Montreal. He is 8-10-1 with a 2.43 goals against average in 19 career games against the Devils.

The Devils have lost four of five and nine of their last 11 games and the club is 1-2-0 since firing head coach Peter DeBoer and replacing him with co- coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens.

New Jersey was on the road on New Year's Eve, when it lost a 3-1 decision against the Detroit Red Wings. Henrik Zetterberg snapped a 1-1 tie with 5:01 left in the third period and Darren Helm made it a two-goal cushion just 36 seconds later.

Joe Whitney's first NHL goal was New Jersey's lone source of offense and Cory Schneider allowed all three goals on 28 shots in defeat.

New Jersey has been dealing with a tremendous amount of injuries and illnesses of late, and another name was added to the list on Wednesday when forward Steve Bernier left late in the third with a lower-body injury. He went into the boards awkwardly on a check attempt and had to be helped off the ice by his teammates. Bernier is expected to miss tonight's tilt, but forwards Patrik Elias and Michael Ryder could play after missing time with the mumps.

The Devils are beginning a three-game homestand tonight. They are 5-6-5 as the host in 2014-15.

Montreal and the Devils are meeting for the first of three encounters this season. The Canadiens have won four of the last six in the series overall and six of eight in the Garden State.

With the Devils also playing tomorrow against Philadelphia, Keith Kinkaid could give Schneider a rest tonight. New Jersey's backup has never faced the Canadiens.