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The second half of the season kicks off tonight, as the Montreal Canadiens host Jason Spezza and the Dallas Stars from the Bell Centre. Listeners in the Montreal region can listen to the game live on TSN Radio 690 at 6pm et. Goaltender Carey Price was absent from Mondays practice but is expected to start in goal this evening. Price, as well as forward Jiri Sekacs, flight out of Columbus on Monday was delayed due to poor weather. The Canadiens are third in the Atlantic Division, two points back of second-place Detroit and three behind Tampa Bay for first. Theyre hoping the layoff didnt cool off their momentum, as they went 12-3-1 in their last 16 games. Its tight, but I think its going to be a lot of fun come the end of the season, right wing Brendan Gallagher told the teams official website. I think a lot of teams will be battling and its going to be exciting. Its not going to be easy, and weve got a lot of games against those top teams - which will be huge to move up the standings - but right now weve just got to focus on the two points that are up for grabs on Tuesday. Max Pacioretty, who leads Montreal with 21 goals and 38 points, netted seven tallies with three assists during a seven-game point streak before it ended in last Tuesdays 2-1 overtime win at home against Nashville. The left wing has failed to get a point in five of six career meetings with Dallas, including Decembers loss. Spezza wont deny that his arrival in Dallas helped create expectations the Stars struggled to meet early in the season. Hes just glad the weight wasnt enough to ruin the season before the Stars reached the All-Star break. Now, Spezza and the Stars emerge from the layoff looking to sweep the season series from the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night at Bell Centre. When youre a team that makes the playoffs and then you add a couple of pieces, the expectations take another step, said Spezza, who was acquired from Ottawa last summer, giving Dallas (21-18-7) more firepower to go with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Sometimes it doesnt work like that right off the hop, he added. And weve kind of had a wishy-washy first half, but fortunately find ourselves not too far on the outside with a chance here to make some ground in the second half. The Stars are four points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and they can thank Seguin for keeping them that close. The All-Star center is tied with Rick Nash of the New York Rangers for the NHL lead in goals with 28, a big reason why Dallas is fourth in scoring at 3.09 goals per game. The Stars, though, rank 27th defensively with 3.26 allowed. We lost a few games and maybe thats part of the reason we couldnt get our traction back there for a little while, said defenseman Alex Goligoski, a veteran of several offseasons without any expectations in Dallas. Thats all history. I think weve settled in pretty nice now and its a 36-game season. The Stars went 11-5-2 in 18 games before the break, but coach Lindy Ruff left the impression that Kari Lehtonen wasnt a lock as his top goalie. Lehtonens 2.98 goals-against average is his worst in six seasons in Dallas, but backup Anders Lindback is sporting a 3.79 GAA. Kari is still my guy, Ruff said. Its a tough place to be because hes the reason a lot of times when were winning games and theres been some nights hes had some tough ones go in and its probably the reason weve lost. Lehtonen only needed to make 16 saves while Seguin scored twice in a 4-1 home win over Montreal (29-13-3) on Dec. 6. Seguin, second in the NHL with 52 points, has six goals and seven assists in his last eight meetings with the Canadiens, but no points in the last two on the road. Projected Canadiens Lines vs. Stars Forwards: Pacioretty - Plekanec - Weise Galchenyuk - Desharnais - Gallagher Sekac - Eller - Prust Bournival - Malhotra - Thomas Defence: Markov - Subban Beaulieu - Gonchar Emelin - Gilbert Goalies: Price starting Tokarski Scratches: Weaver, Parenteau (concussion) Game Notes: DAL is 1-0-0 vs MTL this season, winning at home MTL was 1-0-0 at home vs DAL last season Montreal: won 2 straight at home, 8GF, 4/7 on PP Markov (4A) past 2 games Dallas: 1-1-2 past 4 road games, 3GA or more in each of the games, 1/11 on PP Spezza (1G, 4A) 4 game PT streak NHL Jerseys China . - First-timer Chris Harris Jr. Adidas NHL Jerseys 2020 . 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Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hey Kerry, As always, I really enjoy your take on some of the questionable plays/calls/non-calls. I thought I would try and lighten it up a little with a request for you to share a truly funny or odd moment that you may have had while the players were lining up at the dot. There have been a couple of brief interchanges recently that made me think of this, the latest being at about 12:23 of the first in the Hawks/Kings game on Monday. With all the games you have done, there must be a few. Care to share any? Thanks again, Bajuhn Hey Bujuhn, The camera often catches intense debates between players or coaches and the officials but misses the lighter, humorous side that helps to bring the temperature down and build healthy professional working relationships. I learned early in my career that the use of humor, when appropriate (especially self-deprecating), had its place on the ice. Early in my very first season as a referee, I had a game where the home team was getting soundly trounced and their frustration was continuously being directed at me. I responded with multiple misconduct penalties and, toward the end of the game, players were sitting three deep in the penalty box. Following another goal that took the score in double digits, the coach sent his captain over to have a word with me. Very politely the captain asked, "Mr. Referee, my coach wants to know if he can get a penalty for thinking?" I said, "Probably not if he doesnt think out loud." The captain then said, "In that case, my coach thinks you are a F-ing A-hole!" I not only found the coaches comment to be creative but very funny and I began to laugh. The stern look on the face of the coach changed to a grin and then he began to laugh as well. The humor we shared in that moment, albeit at my expense, broke the ice and taught me a valuable lesson that would serve me throughout my career. In the early 1980s, I was the first referee to wear a wireless microphone during a game at MSG between the Minnesota North Stars and the Rangers. The microphone was left open throughout the entire game so it brought the television audience directly to the action on the ice with uncensored comments. We had several dust-ups throughout the game where my mic caught all the pleasantries that were being exchanged between players. Willi Plett tried to club Don Maloney of the Rangers in once such scrum and caught me on the bridge of my nose with his glove. After Plett served his penalty, he approached me at a stoppage of play and asked, "Is this your worst game of the season?" I shot back with a smile, "No, theyre all about this caliber.dddddddddddd" Plett looked dumbfounded and shook his head while skating away. At times, I tried to council rookie officials not to take themselves so seriously in an effort to solicit player cooperation and earn respect. In 1988, my friend and colleague, linesman Pierre Champoux signed an NHL contract. Pierre quickly developed into an excellent linesman but in the beginning of his career, he did not have a very good command of the English language to put it mildly. We left training camp together that September and headed out West to work exhibition games and to work on Pierres English language skills. One of our early assignments was in Los Angeles and the rookie linesman wanted to establish his full control in the faceoff circle. Bernie Nicholls entered Pierres domain late in the first period to take the draw. In what Nicholls correctly perceived as an aggressive tone and animated gesture, the linesman commanded Nichols with, "You, put your stick down!" Bernie straightened up, cussed at Champoux by questioning who the "F" the rookie thought he was talking to? Nicholls was immediately ejected from the faceoff with a quick jerk of the linesmans thumb followed by, "You, out!" I skated over and told Nicholls to relax as a replacement entered the faceoff circle. Between periods, I conveyed the importance of quickly developing a good working relationship with all the players to gain respect and solicit their cooperation. I acted out a role-play to demonstrate the linesmans command to Nicholls that wasnt well received; followed by a polite approach I always used by requesting the centres to "please put your sticks down." It was obvious to Pierre which method would be better received by a player in the future. I finished by commenting if Pierre still received a hostile comment from a player following his polite request to follow with a lighter approach by saying, "Why are you so grumpy, did someone piss on your cornflakes this morning?" Pierre said I like dat and he couldnt wait to get on the ice to try his new techniques in the faceoff circle; especially the cornflakes line as it turned out. As the centres arrived for the faceoff, Pierre still had a bit of an edge to his tone when he commanded, "You, put your stick down please." Getting some resistance from the player, my rookie student responded immediately with, "Put your stick down or I will piss on your corn-flake!" Something got lost in the translation. Champoux quickly developed a command of the English language and continues to be recognized by the players as a highly respected linesman in the NHL. Pierre also enjoys his bowl of cornflakes in the morning with low-fat milk. ' ' '