Five down, two to go.
The Canadiens' 2013 season ended at the hands of the Sens, who did away with the Canadiens in the fifth game of their first-round playoff series. The Canadiens played a tough series, but ultimately couldn't overcome myriad injuries and some poor puck luck. Now, with a roster not unlike the one they entered the series with, they'll try to earn some low-stakes revenge over their closest geographical rivals.
The Canadiens have already determined that Peter Budaj will play all of tonight's game, with Carey Price likely to play a full sixty in tomorrow's rematch. Budaj stepped into the fray at the end of Game Four last year, and while he couldn't pull out a victory that night, he will certainly be counted on to take the crease at a moment's notice again this year. A solid outing tonight would be encouraging, as Budaj will likely not have the opportunity to shake off a potential bad night until October 9 or 10, when the Canadiens play their first back-to-back of the regular season.
The Habs still have a few definite AHLers floating around their camp, and those players will likely be seeing their final game action this evening. As proud member of #TeamParnass Eric Engels pointed out on Twitter this morning, this game will be particularly significant for Martin St. Pierre, an Ottawa Native and former Senator.
Conspicuous in their absence are the members of two of the Canadiens top three lines, as players like Plekanec, Bourque, Gionta, Desharnais, Pacioretty, and Prust, will all sit out tonight. Captain Brian Gionta, who has yet to participate in game action yet this year, is expected to make his debut tomorrow. One can only assume that Brandon Prust is exhausted from punishing Alexander Urbom on Monday, leading to a therapy day yesterday and his absence from the lineup today. The configuration of Moen-Bournival-White is less than certain, as the Habs have experimented with Bournival on the wing. If the Canadiens' leading preseason goal-scorer were to line up outside, it would be experienced centre White taking over down the middle.
The Canadiens are also resting most of their top defenders, as at least four members of tonight's D corps will play for the Bulldogs before they play for the Habs this year. With Subban and Markov sitting, responsibility for the Canadiens' still-developing powerplay will fall to playmaker Diaz and shooter Magnus Nygren. Nathan Beaulieu will also have ample opportunity to demonstrate his offensive flair in his first game of the year, having lost the early part of training camp to a shoulder problem.
Meanwhile, in the heart of a desolate arena in suburban Ottawa, the Senators are making their final preparations for their season as well. Like the Canadiens, the Senators have a hole or two on their offence to fill, with the not-welcome-in-Montreal Jean-Gabriel Pageau looking like the clubhouse leader to start the year in the big leagues. Another parallel between the two teams is their need to finalize their third defensive pairing, with candidates like NHL veteran Joe Corvo, AHL veteran Eric Borowiecki, and even OHL veteran Cody Ceci still in the running.
The Senators have a new-look top-line, with long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson off to Detroit. The Sens will now rely on newly-minted captain Jason Spezza to centre a line with two former Californian wingers, Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan. With the participation of legitimate NHLers kept to a minimum in Ottawa's win over Toronto last night, it is a distinct possibility that the Canadiens will see this line united for the first time. What the Canadiens will not see is a Lars Eller - Eric Gryba reunion, as Gryba is currently dealing with an injury.
For more on the Senators, and to support current Canadien Martin St. Pierre in his quest to earn the distinction of best Senator ever to wear number 37, check out Silver Seven Sens.