The Canadiens (9-4-1) are home to face the Southeast division leading Hurricanes (8-4-1) Monday night at the Bell Centre. The game is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and TSN-Habs.
This is the first of three meetings between the Habs and Canes this season. Last year, both teams went 2-1-1 in four games against each other, splitting a pair of shootout decisions. The Canes finished just 4 points ahead of the Habs last season leaving them far out of the playoffs. This year, the two teams are close in points again, but both are on the right side of the playoff bubble at this point.
What to Watch:
After Saturday’s victory of the Flyers, the game’s first star, Brendan Gallagher, wasn’t able to skate out and salute the crowd. Gallagher spent much of Saturday lighting a fire under Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, but left the game early in the third with what proved to be a concussion. The rookie is up to 5 goals and 8 points this season in 13 games so there could be a noticeable void left by his absence.
And speaking of noticeable absences, Carey Price will also miss his second straight game Monday, but he will be on the bench while Peter Budaj mans the goal. Budaj didn’t look especially sharp against the Flyers, but his performance helped him earn his first win of the season and sixth as a Hab.
The Hurricanes are firing on all cylinders so far this year, Eric Staal and Jordan Staal make a solid one-two punch at center, while top wingers Jeff Skinner and Alex Semin have been producing as needed. Lucky for the Habs, Skinner won’t be in the lineup Monday, he was forced out of Carolina’s last match against the Leafs with an upper body injury. The Canes also have a solid goaltending duo of Cam Ward and Dan Ellis, with both being able to get the job done when needed.
What’s at Stake:
The Canadiens briefly captured top spot in the Northeast after their win Saturday, but the Bruins reclaimed the division lead with their victory against the Jets on Sunday. Montreal has another shot to overtake the Bruins with a win Monday and to keep pace with the Conference leading Penguins. Pittsburgh has three more points than Montreal, but the Pens have also played two more games.
As mentioned the Habs are without Brendan Gallagher (concussion) and Carey Price (flu) won’t be starting either but will be dressed. Colby Armstrong was hit in the face by a puck Saturday and could miss Monday’s game as well though he practiced with the team on Sunday. Alexei Emelin (upper body) and Max Pacioretty (rib) were also forced out of Saturday’s match, but both also suited up for Sunday’s practice.
PK Subban, who finished the game against Philly in good condition, missed practice on Sunday with the flu and could miss Monday’s game. All these injuries means there’s room in the lineup for what have become the usual suspects when it comes to healthy scratches, that is Ryan White on offense, Tomas Kaberle on defense and Yannick Weber somewhere in between.
For the Canes, Jeff Skinner (upper body) did not make the trip to Montreal. Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen are also both out with lower body injuries and Tuomo Ruutu (hip) is out long term.
The Canadiens will get to renew acquaintances with ex-assistant coach and ex-team captain, Kirk Muller, when the Canes come to town on Monday. Muller, who spent 5 years behind the Habs’ bench, now has a 33-24-13 career record as coach of the Hurricanes. In his first full season behind the bench he has Carolina looking like one of the favorites to win the Southeast division, though the Canes could face some competition from the Tampa Bay Lightning, coached by the Hamilton Bulldogs former bench boss, Guy Boucher.
Ironically, the Northeast division has started to become a battle between two former Habs coaches. Claude Julien has the Bruins looking as solid as ever while former, and current, Canadiens coach, Michel Therrien, has his team right at the top of the division alongside the B’s.
Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren.