Having won three of their previous four games, there was a lot of hope that the Montreal Canadiens would continue to turn their season around in Thursday’s matchup with the Minnesota Wild. When the team was handed a two-goal deficit before the game had hit the five-minute mark, it was clear that there were still some issues.
The biggest concern is the play of Carey Price, whose positioning has been off since the start of the year. Yesterday is was announced that Price would be held out of the game against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday as he recovers from a lower-body injury.
In his stead, Charlie Lindgren has been recalled from the Laval Rocket of the AHL. With the Habs playing on back-to-back nights, heading to Chicago on Sunday, it’s possible that Lindgren will get the call in one of this weekend’s two games.
The good news is that the goal-scoring problems that affected the Canadiens at the start of the year are no longer as much of a concern. Even after going down 4-0 against the Wild, they were determined to pull themselves back into the game, with three goals in the second half.
Leading the charge was Brendan Gallagher, who scored two of the goals and came close to a third that would have put his team down just a single goal at the time. He now leads the team in scoring with 10 points in 13 games, and also holds the goal-scoring lead with six, five of which have come in the last six games.
Gallagher has grabbed the bull by the horns, leading by example on the ice and being more vocal off of it. He will be front and centre tonight in Winnipeg as he and his team face a surging Jets squad.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet, Sportsnet Now (English), TVA Sports (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
Winnipeg has a three-game winning streak, a six-game points streak, and just a single regulation loss since the first week of the season.
Helping their cause have been great defensive performances that place them as one of the better teams in terms of goals allowed this season, despite giving up 13 in their first two games. Connor Hellebuyck has taken the reins for a team that has allowed two goals or fewer in each of its last five games. He sits fourth in the league in save percentage at this point, and will be taking the crease tonight.
The offence has also been hot lately, with Mark Scheifele recording a hat trick versus the Dallas Stars on Thursday. He and Blake Wheeler lead the team with 15 points in just 12 games played.
Patrik Laine, who had fallen into a bit of an offensive funk, notched his fifth of the season against the Stars to snap a four-game goal-scoring drought. After having launched just five shots on target in that four-game span, he matched that total against Ben Bishop on Thursday.
The last thing the Canadiens want to see is a team firing on all cylinders, but that seems to be precisely what they’ll be going up against in tonight’s game. The defence will have to be disciplined in their positioning, the offence will need to be rolling, and the mental toughness that Gallagher requires from his team will need to be on full display if the Habs are going to fly out of Winnipeg with the victory.