Heading into their swing through the Canadian west, the Habs were riding the best start in five decades of hockey. The team was rolling and resilient, finding a way to win even in the most of unfavourable of circumstances. Sadly, it seems that not even this historic proficiency was enough to withstand the accursed power of the trip over the Rockies.
Unsatisfied with attaining only three of six available points on their road trip, Michel Therrien has decided to make some adjustments. Dale Weise, who has moonlighted on a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, looks set to start there this evening. Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec, the Habs two best defensive forwards, will find themselves on the same line, as Eller lines up to Plekanec's left. Most significantly, Alex Galchenyuk will get his chance in the middle, centring Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque on the third line.
The rejigging of the Habs forward group creates a more equal distribution of the team's scoring talent, and while it remains to be seen if Weise is capable of keeping up on what should be line geared most to offence, it does give the Habs a better chance to exploit the bottom of Calgary's lineup. If Dale isn't an anchor, and Galchenyuk's fervent play on the wing is any indication of his capabilities at centre, the Habs might be able to reclaim some of their early season success at even strength.
As it stands, Michel Therrien has bee tinkering with his lines, and if they stick to the setup they had during the last practice, the Habs lines should look a little something like this:
Nathan Beaulieu, Jiri Sekac and Michael Bournival are healthy scratches.
How to watch
Time: 7:00pm EST
In Canada (English): City TV
In the Habs' region: RDS
Elsewhere: NHL Centre Ice or NHL Gamecenter Live
Tale of the Tape
Know Your Enemy
The Calgary Flames are not a strong hockey team.
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More Flames coverage
Their fourth line is skewed toward toughness over talent, creating a trio that isn't always effective when it comes to creating chances. Young players like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, while promising, are carrying a share of the offensive burden disproportionate to still-developing skill. Most importantly, the team simply lacks punch, with no surefire scorer to scare their opponent's defencemen.
Of course, all of that was meaningless on Tuesday, as the Flames used two highly-effective lines to lay waste to the Canadiens' supposedly superior depth. The dynamic will be different this evening, as #1 centre Mikael Backlund has sustained an injury. The Flames have summoned big winger Michael Ferland to replace him, and will fill their centre position by sliding over Paul Byron or Jiri Hudler.
With injuries degrading what is already a weak team, the Canadiens have no excuse. As players and coaches must be well aware, nothing less than a win will be acceptable tonight.
Last Time Out
The last time out was, in a word, ugly. Like so many games in 2013-14, the Canadiens played uninspired hockey, and were held in only by the fortitude of their star goaltender. The Flames carried 40% of possession on Tuesday evening, but thanks to 37 saves from Carey Price (and three more in the shootout), P.A. Parenteau was given the opportunity to win the game in the skills competition.
Of equal concern is the powerplay, in terms of both the opportunities provided to the Flames and Montreal's production on their own man advantages. The Canadiens gave up 13 shots to Calgary on seven chances, and they'll need to reduce both of those numbers if they wish to maximize their odds of winning.
The Habs have surely mixed things up with in the hopes of regaining the even strength success they attained in their first few games of 2014-15. Until that happens, the Habs need their special teams to be an equalizer, not a detriment. If Montreal can't balance out at least one side of their game tonight, they may find that the middling play that characterized their time in Alberta follows them back to Quebec.