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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, March 20th (All times Eastern)

Columbus Blue Jackets (35-27-6) at Montreal Canadiens (38-25-7), 7:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Thomas Vanek broke out of his scoring slump with the Montreal Canadiens in a big way. The Habs hope their recently-acquired winger can stay hot on Thursday night in a home matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Canadiens acquired Vanek from the New York Islanders prior to the trade deadline in an effort to upgrade their offense for a playoff push. However, Vanek failed to score a goal in his first five games with Montreal, held to just a single assist.

The two-time 40-goal scorer finally broke out in Tuesday's big 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche, netting a hat trick to spoil Patrick Roy's return to Montreal.

Roy made his first appearance in Montreal as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche and received a warm reception early in the game before Vanek stole the show.

"It was unbelievable," Vanek said of his three-goal night. "This place is electric."

Brandon Prust had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who have won three in a row. Travis Moen and Dale Weise also lit the lamp, while Carey Price made 25 saves.

Montreal's current win streak has it tied for second place with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division with 83 points. That is three ahead of the fourth-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

Columbus is also pushing for a playoff bid as it sits two points behind the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets are also even with the Washington Capitals with 76 points, but have two games in hand to hold the current tiebreaker for the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference.

The Blue Jackets were riding a seven-game point streak going into Tuesday's home matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes and fell in defeat 3-1.

Columbus was nearly shut out before Boone Jenner lit the lamp with 50 seconds to go, deflecting Ryan Johansen's shot past Carolina goaltender Anton Khudobin. Still, the Blue Jackets fell to 6-1-1 in their last eight games.

Sergei Bobrovsky gave up three goals on 20 shots through two periods, while Curtis McElhinney did not face a shot in the third period during his relief appearance.

Columbus outshot Carolina 19-0 in the third period.

"We attempted 79 (shots) -- 47 were on net," said Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards. "It seemed like we had some quality chances. We hit a couple posts. We had our opportunities."

The Blue Jackets activated forward Jared Boll from injured reserve on Wednesday. He had missed the past 45 games due to a torn ankle tendon suffered in late November.

The 27-year-old scored one goal and racked up 38 penalty minutes in 21 games before suffering the injury.

The Blue Jackets have lost both of their previous meetings with the Canadiens this season, including a 5-3 loss in Montreal on Oct. 17.

03/20 10:52:01 ET

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