The league leading Montreal Canadiens (14-4-1) are home to host the Metropolitan leading Pittsburgh Penguins (12-3-1) Tuesday night. The game is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and Sportsnet East.
This is the first of three meetings between the Habs and Pens this season, and the first of two in Montreal. Last season the Canadiens took two of three from the Penguins, including a wild 6-5 shootout win to end the season series. Daniel Briere had a pair of goals and an assist in that game while David Desharnais had two assists and the only goal in the shootout.
What’s to Watch
While he’s seen his average ice time shrink since Sergei Gonchar became a Canadien, Nathan Beaulieu has now dressed in eight consecutive games and continues to have a positive impact. He has two assists in the last three games, including one on the Habs’ first power play goal in November towards the end of Thursday’s victory over the Bruins. All this despite playing a total of 21:42 in three games, over three minutes less than PK Subban played in Sunday’s game versus the Red Wings alone.
With the second most potent offense in the league, the Penguins currently have four players at a point per game or better. Through 16 games Sidney Crosby (25 points), Evgeni Malkin (19), Patric Hornqvist (19), and Chris Kunitz (16) each have at least a point per game. Meanwhile in nets, Marc-Andre Fleury is top ten in the league in wins (10, 3rd), goals against average (.925, 8th), goals against average (2.13, 9th), and is tied for the league lead in shut outs with three.
What’s at Stake
It’s lonely at the top, but the Canadiens probably don’t mind. They’re on top of the league for now, but just a single point ahead of the Lightning and well within reach of the Penguins, who hold three games in hand. The Habs will look to extend their lead and keep their foes at bay for another day on Tuesday, they’ll also be trying to improve their season best six game win streak.
The Canadiens are without Michael Bournival (shoulder), but are otherwise healthy heading in to Tuesday’s game.
Olli Maatta (neck) who had surgery at the beginning of November to remove a tumor from his thyroid gland, could possibly return to action Tuesday in Montreal. Pascal Dupuis will not play on Tuesday, he’s sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
With their win against the Red Wings on Sunday, the Canadiens improved to 10-1-0 against Eastern conference teams and 6-1-0 against teams in their division. As far as teams from the East go, the Canadiens have only lost to the Tampa Bay Lighting. Unsurprisingly, the Pens and Bolts also have strong records within the conference, but neither are quite at Montreal’s level. Tampa has a 8-1-1 record against the East while Pittsburgh boasts a 7-2-1 mark.
The Question Mark
Approaching the quarter mark of the season, how would you grade the Habs’ offense, defense, goaltending, and coaching thus far?