The Canadiens will play their first of sixteen back-to-back sets on Saturday and Sunday. While the players should be fresh to start the season and can probably handle playing two games in a 27-hour period, some roster and ice-time management now could allow the team to be better prepared come playoff time.
This weekend offers a good opportunity for Mike Condon to get his first National Hockey League action. The question is whether that debut would come on Saturday versus the old rival Boston Bruins, who have been steadily dropping from their height as league champions just a few years ago, or in the new rivalry with the Ottawa Senators, whose young players have the capital city's franchise on the upswing.
Condon's pre-season showing was good enough to supplant Dustin Tokarski for the role of back-up, and we could see how he can perform as Carey Price's backup early in his rookie season.
Andrei Markov averaged over 24 minutes of ice-time in 81 games last season. In the season opener on Wednesday night, Markov finished with the lowest ice-time of the defencemen deployed in the top-four, playing less than 22 minutes.
That is a more manageable total for the soon-to-be 37-year-old, though a game off in the back-to-back games can keep the veteran defender in good shape down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Giving some of his minutes to Nathan Beaulieu, or resting Markov in favour of either of Wednesday night's healthy scratches, Jarred Tinordi or Greg Pateryn, would accomplish that goal.
Just before the season began, the Canadiens claimed Paul Byron off waivers. Byron offers a left-handed option on the wing of the fourth line, something the Canadiens did not have versus Toronto with righties Devante Smith-Pelly and Brian Flynn.
Given Smith-Pelly's performances at the end of pre-season and the speed he showed in the first game of the season, Flynn may be the one to sit in the press box to allow Byron to don the Habs jersey for the first time.
Byron's positive effect on his teammates has been documented, and his speed and defensive stick work perfectly complement what Mitchell has brought in his Canadiens tenure.
That Flynn has yet to stand out in any significant way since training camp began in September, Byron's inclusion in the lineup may prove more permanent than the options outlined for the goaltender and defence positions.