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Canadiens vs. Avalanche: Five things to watch

While Canadiens coach Claude Julien wouldn't confirm his lineup, it's a good bet that Carey Price will get the start in goal against the Avalanche on Wednesday night.

While Canadiens coach Claude Julien wouldn’t confirm his lineup, it’s a good bet that Carey Price will get the start in goal against the Avalanche on Wednesday night.

John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

DENVER — Here are five things to watch when the Canadiens (17-12-5) play the Colorado Avalanche (18-10-6) Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center (8:30 p.m., SN, SN360, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

Lineup changes? Defenceman Victor Mete, who was called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket after the Canadiens’ 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins Monday night, was paired with Jeff Petry during practice Tuesday, but coach Claude Julien said he had yet to decide on his roster against the Avalanche. Julien also juggled his forward lines at practice, moving Paul Byron up to play with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin, while Andrew Shaw dropped down to play with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen. The Canadiens sent defenceman Noah Juulsen down to Laval when they called up Mete.

The goalies: While Julien wouldn’t confirm his lineup, you have to think Carey Price will start against the Avalanche, with Antti Niemi possibly getting the call Thursday night when the Canadiens play the Coyotes in Arizona (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). Price has a 13-9-4 record with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage this season, while Niemi is 4-3-1 with a 4.14 GAA and a .876 save percentage. Philipp Grubauer will start in goal for the Avalanche. He has a 7-2-3 record with a 3.22 GAA and a .897 save percentage.

The power play: The Canadiens’ power play has been absolutely brutal, going 0-for-25 in the last eight games and 1-for-30 in the last 10 games since captain Shea Weber and his booming slapshot returned to the lineup. The Canadiens rank 30th in the NHL on the power play with a 12.0 per cent success rate. The Avalanche have the third-best power play in the NHL, clicking at 30.5 per cent. The Canadiens have been much better playing five-on-five, ranking second in the NHL after Monday’s game with 84 goals at even strength, trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning with 87.

Avalanche warning: Heading into Tuesday’s games, the Avalanche’s Mikko Rantanen was leading the NHL in scoring with 15-41-56 totals and linemate Nathan MacKinnon was second with 21-32-53. Gabriel Landeskog, the third member of the NHL’s most dangerous line this season, ranked 13th in the NHL with 22-19-41 totals. Max Domi, who leads the Canadiens in scoring with 14-19-33 totals, ranked 42nd in the NHL through Monday’s games. Domi hasn’t scored a goal in the last four games and has only one in the last six.

Long and winding road: This is the first of six straight road games for the Canadiens, who won’t play again at the Bell Centre until Jan. 3 when the Vancouver Canucks are the visitors. Before then, the Canadiens have games in Colorado, Arizona, Las Vegas, Florida, Tampa and Dallas. The Canadiens also had a six-game road trip over Christmas and New Year last season and finished with a 3-3-0 record. The Canadiens start this trip holding the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and have a 7-5-3 road record.


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