ANAHEIM, Calif. — The NHL season is still young but as the losses pile up, the Montreal Canadiens are increasingly feeling the pressure to get things headed in the right direction.
The Anaheim Ducks simply hope to have a few more healthy players as they prepare to host Montreal on Friday.
The Canadiens (1-5-1) are coming off a 5-1 loss at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night and visit an Anaheim squad that has had four days to prepare.
The Ducks (2-3-1) have been plagued by a rash of injuries to key players and are coming off a home loss to Buffalo on Sunday, but will look to add to Montreal’s misery before embarking on a four-game road trip that opens Tuesday night at Philadelphia.
The Ducks and Habs split a pair of meetings last season with each winning at home.
Montreal coach Claude Julien saw his team locked in a tight 1-1 game entering the third period Wednesday night against the Kings only to fall apart. They took bad penalties, got caught on a bad line change and allowed second-year Kings forward Adrian Kempe to grab his first career hat trick in the final period.
The Canadiens own an NHL-worst minus-16 goal differential and desperately need a complete performance in order to salvage points from the annual California road trip, which opened with a 5-2 loss at San Jose on Tuesday night.
The Habs looked tired and a step slow during the third period Wednesday night and Thursday in Anaheim, only eight players participated in an optional practice.
“I think right now it’s about taking ownership of who we are,” Julien said. “We’ve got to do better, and we’ve got to do better for 60 minutes.”
The Ducks will likely take the ice without at least two key components: veteran center Ryan Getzlaf and right winger Patrick Eaves, who have lower-body injuries. Getzlaf (two assists this season) and Eaves (one goal) have both been limited to two games this season after helping the Ducks make a deep playoff run last spring.
On Thursday, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said those two are “very doubtful” for Friday night’s game while defensemen Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, and goaltender Ryan Miller would be evaluated after the morning skate. Right winger Ondrej Kase (head) is expected to return after missing three straight games.
Lindholm, who has yet to play this season as he works to recover from a shoulder injury which required surgery back in May, is especially anxious to get back on the ice. The fact he was able to test himself in recent practice sessions without discomfort is a positive sign.
“That’s the last test for me, being comfortable (with physical contact),” said Lindholm, who has practiced on the second power-play unit along with fellow defensemen Brandon Montour. “That’s a big part of my game and I want to be 100 percent confident when I get out there.”
Anaheim is also missing center Ryan Kesler, who is out indefinitely while recovering from hip surgery.