The Montreal Canadiens earned a chance to pull themselves to a .500 record with Saturday’s overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres, but came up short by being on the wrong side of a decision in extra time on Tuesday night versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The point earned does give them that chance again tonight, as they will have 20 points through 20 games with a victory.
The two points are ripe for the picking from the Arizona Coyotes, who crawl into Montreal with an atrocious record of 2-15-3, without a single regulation win on the season.
After a brief surge in offence at the end of October, the Canadiens have slipped back into a scoring slump, with just three goals in their last three games.
Though he has just five points on the season, the loss of Artturi Lehkonen for what sounds to be a significant period of time will hinder their chances of turning things around. Lehkonen has turned around the fortunes of every player he has played with this season, doing the work through the neutral zone and along the boards to help create opportunites, and his loss means the Canadiens’ ability to generate offence will be lessened while the sophomore is relegated to spectator status.
An inabilty to stop the puck has been the Coyotes’ Achilles heel so far this season, allowing a league-high 78 goals; nearly four per game. Charlie Lindgren has helped staunch the bleeding in that regard for the Habs since taking over the starter’s role, and another good performance from the rookie netminder would go a long way to getting his team back on level footing.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2, TSNGO (English), RDS (French)
In the Coyotes region: FS-A
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
While Lindgren currently leads the league in save percentage at .957, you’ll find Antti Raanta at the opposite end of the list of the top 31 goalies, with a mark of .905. He has allowed six goals on 33 shots in his last two appearances, both versus the Winnipeg Jets, the most recent of which he was lifted from in favour of backup Scott Wedgewood.
At the opposite end of the ice, the team hasn’t been faring much better, sitting a goal behind even the offensively challenged Canadiens, and just two up on the Patrick Marleau-less San Jose Sharks who flounder in last place in that stat.
The scoring would be in a truly dire state if not for the play of rookie Clayton Keller. The seventh overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft has 11 goals — just about a quarter of his team’s total offence — and leads Oliver Ekman-Larsson by six points for the team scoring lead.
Keller will be by far the team’s most dangerous threat tonight, and the Habs will need to look beyond the fact that he’s played just 23 NHL games and focus their defensive efforts on limiting his offence.