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The Globe and Mail

Canadiens aim to continue win streak against lowly Islanders

Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Alex Galchenyuk (27) during third period NHL hockey action against Carolina Hurricanes in Montreal, February 18, 2013.


They are not words that have been used next to each other since early 2010, but there they are: first, place, and Habs.

Your last-place Montreal Canadiens of a year ago are now riding a five-game win streak, and will face the lowly New York Islanders, who sit just two points out of the Eastern Conference basement - they have lost seven of their last nine games.

Montreal, meanwhile, has won more home games than any other team in the NHL.

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In New York coach Jack Capuano's considered view, the biggest improvement in the Habs is on the blueline, where they've managed to tighten up in their own end without sacrificing offence.

"They're a quick skating team, they like to put pressure on their opponents . . . this will be a good test," said Capuano.

The Habs, meanwhile, will be icing the same lineup that won 3-1 in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, although winger Brendan Gallagher, who suffered a concussion after being hit from behind by Philly's Luke Schenn last Saturday, has been cleared to resume practising.

Gallagher is still a few days away from making his return to the lineup - he was in a no-contact jersey at practice.

Carey Price will get the start in net, Evgeni Nabokov will start for the Islanders.

Montreal has yielded just three goals in its last four games - and has revealed itself to be an elite defensive team.

The Islanders, meanwhile have given up 22 more goals than Thursday's opponents.

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Not that the Habs are about to let their status as a conference front-runner - it bears pointing out they have three games in hand on Boston and one in hand on New Jersey - go to their heads.

"What's in the past is in the past, we have to worry about tonight. Then we'll worry about the next game, it doesn't matter if we've won five in a row or lost five in a row, those things don't matter to us. Tonight is what matters to us," said defenceman Josh Gorges.

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