The Montreal Canadiens departed on a seven-game road trip feeling like they’ve got nowhere to go but up.
That’s because the Canadiens are tied for last in the Atlantic Division when they face the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night.
Montreal lost its past three games to drop to the division basement but doesn’t plan to be there very long.
“There’s a lot of motivation in this group and we want to do well,” defenseman Kaiden Guhle said. “We want to win, so I don’t think we’re going to take a step back in any way, we’re going to bounce forward.”
One area that needs immediate improvement for the Canadiens is their penalty kill unit, which has allowed five power-play goals on 15 penalties in the past three games.
Staying out of the penalty box has been a topic of discussion heading into recent games, Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki said.
“As of late, we’ve been taking way too many penalties and that’s got to stop,” he said. “We’re wasting the guys’ energy killing penalties, and it’s hard to keep momentum like that.”
Montreal can also help itself by starting faster. The Canadiens have not scored in the first two periods in their past five games.
“I feel like the last couple games here at home we’ve had a bunch of chances early, just haven’t been able to score,” Suzuki said. “Getting the first one is huge for momentum and winning games, and we haven’t been able to do that lately.”
Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said he’ll continue to rely on video to point out the positive and negative moments during games and reinforce accountability.
“Sometimes we get loose defensively,” he said. “We have missed assignments defensively, and it’s part of the growing process. … Sometimes, you get in those video sessions and you’re the guy in the video and it’s part of it. It’s just the truth and it’s how we’re going to grow.”
The Coyotes will be trying to stay out of the penalty box as well after giving up two power-play goals on five short-handed situations in a 5-2 loss against the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
“There is a learning curve there in the sense of what’s leading to our penalties and their goals. I think that’s stuff that we need to stay away from,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “On our side, there’s not one of (the penalties) that we should have seen. There’s not one of them where it was necessary.”
Before losing to Buffalo, the Coyotes had won their previous three home games at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, including a 4-3 win on Dec. 9 against the Boston Bruins, who sit atop the NHL standings.
Clayton Keller has been on a tear this month for Arizona. He combined for five goals in the three games leading up to the loss to Buffalo.
Barrett Hayton, the No. 5 overall pick by the Coyotes in 2018, scored his first of the season to end a 28-game scoring drought.
“It’s been a long time and you try not to think about it, but it’s definitely there,” Hayton said. “It’s nice to get that one off my back and get rolling,”
–Field Level Media