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Montreal Canadiens vs Anaheim Ducks Game Preview

After a dreadful first overture, can the Habs get their road trip back on track?

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

We've come to expect good things when Marc Bergevin makes a move, and Monday's trade deadline was no exception. Leaving his roster untouched, and parting with minimal value, the Canadiens GM addressed a major team need, and bolstered his team's substantial depth. It's an exciting time to be a Habs fan, as the team appears poised for another playoff run.

Sadly, that energy did not translate to the San Jose ice. The Sharks had their way with Montreal, which means that tonight is a new start on a perennially difficult road trip.

If Monday's affair was all about a player they had recently acquired, tonight's game is about a player they recently parted with. Jeff Petry made an excellent debut, and tonight, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn (should they crack the lineup) will seek to accomplish the same. Devante Smith-Pelly, especially, will look to put on a good performance in front of his former fans and teammates.

For Habs fans, however, this about Jiri Sekac, and the human tendency to pass judgment based on what little information we have, even if that information is insufficient. A head-to-head clash between Sekac and DSP means little, but will likely prove tempting to analyze.

How to Watch

Start time: 10:00 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In the Canadiens region (English): Sportsnet East
In the Ducks region: FS-W
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Ducks
41-17-5 Record 40-17-7
6-2-2 L10 Record 6-4-0
49.0 Score-Adjusted Fenwick % 50.5
171 Goals For 189
Goals Against 177
1.22 5v5 Goal Ratio 1.03
16.5 PP% 17.4
85.2 PK% 81.6

Know Your Enemy

Of course, Anaheim did much more than swing the Sekac deal near the deadline. They had a busy day on Monday, headlined by their acquisition of former Hab and powerplay weapon James Wisniewski. The Ducks also rid themselves of a former Canadien, as Rene Bourque went to Columbus in the Wisniewski deal.

Low-risk signing Dany Heatley, who was hampered by injury in his bid to audition alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, was sent to Florida with a pick for Tomas Fleischmann. The aptly-nickname Flash will get a chance to supplement the scoring that the Ducks receive from their powerful 1-2 punch.

Perhaps the most significant deal, however, was Anaheim's acquisition of Simon Despres. In a straight-up swap for 31-year-old Ben Lovejoy, the Ducks got a 23-year-old defenceman who excels at shutting down his opponents. In fact, both players appear to playing at a similar level, making the deal a little puzzling for Pittsburgh, but a boon to Bob Murray's boys.

With the deadline over, and the team's roster more or less static, the Ducks look to have put together a solid defensive corps. However, they'll have to be patient before they can realize the full potential of their moves. Wisniewski is still recovering from a foot injury, and young gun Sami Vatanen is also out of the lineup. That leaves, below Hampus Lindholm, Francois Beauchemin, Despres, and Cam Fowler, the pair of Josh Manson and Clayton Stoner.

Manson and Stoner are a definite downgrade from the two injured players they're replacing, but Bruce Boudreau seems to know how to use them. The pair, when united, have had the privilege of starting 57% of their shifts in the offensive zone. While Manson's sample size is small, both players seem prone to crumbling in tougher deployments. The shelter seems to have done the trick, though, as they've been effective when their ice time is made manageable.

Last Time Out

Despite a steady stream of chances, the Canadiens managed only a single goal past tonight's probable starter, Frederik Andersen, when they lost to the Ducks last December. Despite putting 21 scoring chances toward the Danish netminder, it took David Desharnais' best Mike Cammalleri impression to earn a goal, as the Habs centre got a powerplay marker on a one-knee one-timer.

This frustrating dynamic permeated most of the game. The Habs were forced to make due without Lars Eller, who missed the game with an injury. Then, they lost Max Pacioretty, who was smashed from behind by Stoner but did not draw a penalty call. Pacioretty went to the hospital that night, but in classic Wolverine fashion, suited up for Montreal's next game.

Ultimately, it was Matt Beleskey who put Anaheim over the top, snapping a quick wrister past Carey Price, marking the game-winner before the pixels were dry on Desharnais' equalizer. Of course, Montreal won't have to worry about that happening again, as Beleskey will sit out this game.

Finally, two-thirds of two key lines will look a little different tonight than they did last time. Perry and Kyle Palmieri, who have flanked Ryan Getzlaf of late, were both absent last game. Getzlaf spent most of his minutes last time with Bourque and Smith-Pelly on his wings, and still came out possession-positive. Lined up with familiar running mates, he should be expected to be extremely dangerous this evening.

Montreal tends to rely on their top guns, but their fourth line was a key factor against Anaheim. Manny Malholtra, Michael Bournival, and Eric Tangradi got torched, with Bournival's 14.29 shot attempt percentage setting the high water mark for the line. While Montreal has enjoyed the strong play of a number of their recent call-ups lately, they invested in proven depth for a reason. Tonight, with Bournival and Tangradi in Hamilton, and Malholtra quite possibly in the press box, we'll find out if an improved fourth line can help the Habs to avoid another episode like the sorrow in San Jose.