It’s not all that often that early January NHL games, smack in the middle of the grind that is the NHL’s regular season, get circled on the calendar. Tonight’s contest is one of those rare occasions for Habs fans, so when it was announced that P.K. Subban wouldn’t be able to participate, it would’ve been easy to feel disappointed.
It’s not his Bell Centre homecoming, but seeing the highest-profile member of the Canadiens franchise in recent memory line up in the opposition’s colours would have been a pretty big deal. Now, that milestone will be delayed until March at the earliest.
But despite the residual Subban feelings, it might be better this way. Shea Weber was the heart and soul of the Predators’ franchise for the better part of a decade, and his return to Nashville tonight will be accompanied by all the same sentimentality as Subban’s eventual return to Montreal. That should make tonight special, regardless of which team you’re cheering for.
How to watch
Puck drop: 8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the Predators region: FS-TN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.19||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||52.62|
|1.52||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.11|
We should be in for a good contest on the ice, as well.
The Canadiens earned four of six points last week, but looked less than convincing at times. The Lightning game was all but wrapped up with ten minutes remaining in the third period, only to end in a disappointing overtime loss. The Habs were overtime winners against Florida, but the game was probably closer than it needed to be. And against Pittsburgh, Carey Price turned in a two-point effort. Sadly, he was rewarded with only one.
But nitpicking aside, the Habs have done an admirable job of treading water in the absence of a few key cogs. To continue earning points, they’ll have to keep up with a Tennessee team still sitting outside the playoff picture as the race’s mid-point approaches.
The roster that Nashville will ice tonight should look pretty similar to the one that beat the Habs last February, besides the fact that their most-used player in that contest will wear the CH this evening. Pekka Rinne will get the start in goal, and the same key contributors (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, James Neal) will look to pace Nashville’s offence.
Of course, with Subban unavailable, no player for either side will be asked to carry a greater burden that Roman Josi. Whether it’s handling Montreal’s top line (which happens to include another player making his return to the city that drafted him) or starting the offence, Peter Laviolette will rely heavily on the Swiss defender. After all, even beyond the circumstances off the ice, tonight’s game could end up mattering for Nashville.
The NHL season isn’t even half over, but as the calendar flips to the new year, the level of urgency for those teams not occupying a playoff has to rise just a little. Sitting two points back of the second wildcard spot, the Predators are going to look to close that gap - even if it comes at the expense of a player whose legacy in Nashville couldn’t be more substantial.