With a loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon, the New Jersey Devils no longer have an opportunity to qualify for the 2013 NHL playoffs. They, like a full third of the NHL's franchises, will be playing for pride, giving some ice time to their young guys, and preparing for the future.
The Canadiens are also preparing, though we know that the Canadiens will be headed to the playoffs. There is still some crucial information that we do not know, however, as the Canadiens seed, opponent, and even whether or not they will have home ice in the playoffs is still to be determined. A win tonight would virtually seal home ice for at least one round, with the Canadiens occupying the two or the four seed and the opportunity to face off against a still-large pool of potential opponents.
After tweaking his lineup for the Canadiens last few games, Michel Therrien appears set to return to a lineup that resembles the manner in which he has deployed his troops for most of the year. Monday's practice featured trios of Plekanec-Bourque-Gionta, Desharnais-Pacioretty-Gallagher, Eller-Ryder-Galchenyuk, and Halpern-Prust-Armstrong. Based on this configuration, it appears that Travis Moen will be a healthy scratch against the Devils, while Davis Drewiske will likely also be left out. The Canadiens iced pairings of Markov-Weber, Bouillon-Subban, and Gorges-Diaz on Monday, while Drewiske was matched up with Tomas Kaberle - a reliable indicator that he will not participate in Tuesday's action.
The Devils are dealing with no significant injuries at this time, but given their recent elimination, they could ice less than full lineup. How they choose to handle their lineup and ice-time allotments, especially for veterans like Elias and Kovalchuk, could change now that the games mean less.
The Devils will start Martin Brodeur, a future-Hall-of-Famer who has a full season's worth of all-star level play against the Canadiens on his resumé. In 67 career starts against the Habs, Marty has a 43-18-1 record, in addition to five ties. The Canadiens put four goals past Brodeur in a 4-3 OT victory toward the start of this season, the only time they've seen Brodeur this year.
Carey Price was in net for that 4-3 victory, as well as a 2-1 win over the Devils and back-up goalie Johan Hedberg. Price will look to bring his career record against the Devils to .500, as he currently sports a 7-8-1 record with a .917 save percentage.
The Canadiens will aim to play a cliche-worthy solid sixty minutes of hockey, demonstrating some stability and creating some collective confidence as they get closer and closer to the playoffs. Alex Galchenyuk will look to continue his hot streak, and add to the four goals he's amassed in six games. Conversely, a few of the Canadiens better weapons will attempt to shake off the cobwebs prior to the playoffs, as players like Lars Eller have failed to post a single goal over the last six. Max Pacioretty is also ready for some bigger production, as he has only two goals in his last eleven games, despite producing thirty shots.
The Devils, meanwhile, will seek to remain sufficiently competitive such that no one abruptly quits the team.
For Matteau, Marty, and mathematical elimination, visit In Lou We Trust.