Habs hope homestand rights listing ship

STEPHANE ALARIE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

MONTREAL -- It hasn't been a happy New Year for the Montreal Canadiens, who have slipped from atop the NHL's Northeast Division after losing nine of their last 12 games.

The Habs took to the ice for practice Tuesday amid hopes that an upcoming homestand will help them to right the ship following an unsuccessful December road trip.

Even though they refuse to talk about fatigue following 15 games in 31 days last month, goaltender Carey Price admits to a mental lull. He told reporters that January is the "toughest time of the year" to set team goals.

"Not only has the excitement of the (season) start gone away, but it's still too early to think about the playoffs," said Price, who has started 35 of his team's 40 games this season and leads all goalies in minutes played.

Price said he's happy to be home after his team dropped five of six games on its most recent road trip. The Habs sit three points behind division-leading Boston, after leading the Northeast for much of the first half of the season.

Luckily for Price and the Habs, they will have fewer games and more home dates this month than they did in December. Seven of the team's next 12 matches will be at the Bell Centre, where they sport a 12-5-3 record compared with a 9-11-0 road mark. Price welcomes the chance to sleep in his own bed.

"It's difficult to get away from hockey when you're always in the hotel, on a plane and in a suitcase," said Price. "Being back at the house lets me rest, but mainly it lets me unwind mentally."

Price, who finished second among NHL goalies in all-star balloting, says getting rest will be a key to his success heading into the post-season. He adds that the team plans to make the most of the extra time at its practice facility.

"I think that's what we've been missing lately," said Price.

It's said that there's no place like home, and the Canadiens get a chance to test the adage Thursday when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins visit.


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