Back as the team's starting goaltender, Carey Price has helped the Montreal Canadiens move to the top of the Northeast Division. He'll get some much-needed rest Friday night.
Making his first start in four weeks, backup Alex Auld will be in net as the Canadiens try to prevent the Atlanta Thrashers from winning four in a row at home for the first time since 2006-07.
Limited to 39 starts last season when he lost the No. 1 netminder's job to Jaroslav Halak, Price has started 21 of Montreal's first 22 games, going 13-7-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average. He already has as many wins as he had last season, and he's tied with Boston's Tim Thomas for the league lead with four shutouts.
"It's just a credit to our guys," Price said Wednesday after making 24 saves in a 4-1 win over Los Angeles. "Everybody's on a roll right now and everybody's doing what they have to do to get wins."
With Montreal (14-7-1) hosting Buffalo on Saturday night, coach Jacques Martin will give Auld the nod Friday. Auld, who split time with Dallas and the New York Rangers last season, turned away 30 shots in his only appearance this season, a 3-1 road victory over the New York Islanders on Oct. 29.
"I haven't played in a while so the best thing to do in a situation like this is to keep my game as simple as possible," Auld told the Canadiens' official website.
He is 2-4-0 with a 3.45 GAA in seven career starts versus the Thrashers, who have outscored opponents 12-2 while winning a season-best three in a row.
"Atlanta's hot right now -- they've got a lot of guys going," Auld said. "We've risen to the challenge of every really good team that we've played so far this year, and we'll do the same thing against the Thrashers."
Atlanta (10-9-3) continues its season-high six-game homestand following Wednesday's 5-1 victory over Detroit. The Thrashers have killed nine of 10 penalties and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has stopped 89 of 91 shots during the winning streak.
"Our focus is being sound defensively," captain Andrew Ladd said Wednesday after scoring his second short-handed goal of the season. "There are little details on the defensive side that lead to turnovers for the other team and offensive plays for us."
Ladd, who leads the club with 23 points, has four goals and seven assists in the last nine games. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who like Ladd was acquired from Chicago during the offseason, has scored in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. Byfuglien is tied for the NHL lead with four game-winning goals.
Atlanta's last 4-0 stretch at Philips Arena was a franchise-record seven-game run from March 2-18, 2007.
Despite the Thrashers firing a franchise-record 50 shots, Montreal snapped a three-game skid in Atlanta with a 4-3 overtime victory Dec. 21.
Tomas Plekanec, who leads the Canadiens with 13 assists and 21 points, scored and matched a career high with four points in that matchup.
Thrashers center Nik Antropov scored three goals in two home games versus the Canadiens in 2009-10.
Montreal and Atlanta meet three more times this season.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.