When Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron miss their first games of the season tonight, their absence will leave Tomas Plekanec, Shea Weber, Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault, and Torrey Mitchell as the only five Canadiens skaters to have played in all 40 games so far this season.
The Habs aren’t the league’s most injured team, but the constantly changing lineup probably hasn’t made things easier on the squad. Regardless, heading into tonight’s Hockey Night in Canada clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Tricolore find themselves occupying the number one seed in the Atlantic division.
Following play last night, the Maple Leafs can also stake a claim to a divisional playoff position, as their win over the New Jersey Devils pushed them into the third place in the Atlantic.
Tonight, the Canadiens will rely on their latest reinforcements, in the form of Sven Andrighetto and Nikita Scherbak, to help them try to stop the Leafs from drawing any closer.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC (English), TVAS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.15||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||51.61|
|1.48||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.08|
*Statistics do not reflect Friday night’s games.
Andrighetto will be a familiar sight to Habs fans, as tonight’s game will be his 65th in a Canadiens uniform over the past three seasons. Andrighetto looks set to slot in with Plekanec and Artturri Lehkonen on what should be a skillful and balanced trio.
For Scherbak, however, tonight will mark his first regular season contest in Canadiens colours. It looks like the Russian winger will be eased into NHL play as he lines up on the fourth line beside recent St. John’s teammates Michael McCarron and Bobby Farnham.
Of course, while Michel Therrien has again been forced to re-jig his lines in what feels like a daily ritual of late, he does have a couple of other advantages on his side.
Tonight is the seventh and final contest of a season-long road trip for Montreal, and with two nights off since their OT win in Dallas, the team should come in well-rested, at least. The Habs also get the benefit of facing an opponent on the second night of back-to-back, a situation which is often unfavourable and especially so for the Maple Leafs this season.
Frederik Andersen got the start and the win for the Buds yesterday, which could mean that the Canadiens will be tasked with beating Quebec native Antoine Bibeau. Bibeau has only two starts in his NHL career, but has acquitted himself well in both a hard-luck-loss to the Colorado Avalanche (the day after Montreal’s 10-1 beatdown of the Avs, coincidentally) and a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning (the day before Montreal’s recent 4-3 OT loss to the Bolts, for what it’s worth). Regardless, as long as the Canadiens don’t allow Bibeau to pull a Louis Domingue, this should be regarded as a favourable matchup. (Update: Andersen will start again tonight).
The Habs have beaten Toronto twice in regulation so far this season, with Carey Price turning in a stellar performance on each occasion. Price has allowed just one even strength goal, and two goals total, in his two contests against the Maple Leafs this season. If Price can play to that same elite level, it’ll be an excellent insurance policy for the skaters in front of him - no matter who the skaters happen to be.