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Canadiens vs. Blue Jackets: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

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The Canadiens did what they had to do yesterday. Now they need to do it all again.

NHL: NOV 12 Blue Jackets at Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

How to watch

Start time: 2:00 PM EST / 11:00 AM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet East/Ontario/1, Sportsnet Now (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Blue Jackets region: Fox Sports Ohio
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live

At the end of last season, the Canadiens were trying to pull off an improbable run to the post-season. They ended the campaign with a 7-2-1 record, but two of those losses came against the teams they were chasing for the wild-card spots. They ended up one point out with both the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets getting in the door before it slammed shut.

Two lengthy losing streaks have put a playoff berth in jeopardy much earlier in 2019-20, but the Canadiens are showing the same determination to beat the long odds set before them. They’ve come out of another stretch of eight consecutive losses by winning six of their past eight contests.

None were more important than the last two, first overcoming an inexcusable start in Buffalo on Thursday night to jump above the Sabres, then securing a commanding 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers yesterday to pull themselves a little closer to the team sitting third in their division, putting an abrupt end to the opponent’s six-game winning streak.

Today, it’s another big four-point game against the Blue Jackets, a team sitting in one of the extra playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. A loss, like the crushing 6-2 defeat on March 28, 2019, puts the distance between the two teams at 10 points. A win reduces the gap to six, puts them close to the group of clubs hunting for those same final spots, and makes their crazy scheme to try to catch them all a little more rational.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Blue Jackets
Canadiens Statistic Blue Jackets
24-22-7 Record 27-16-9
1-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-1
53.9% (2nd) Corsi-for pct. 48.5% (22nd)
3.04 (17th) Goals per game 2.67 (24th)
3.04 (15th) Goals against per game 2.50 (3rd)
20.4% (13th) PP% 17.4% (24th)
79.3% (20th) PK% 81.9% (10th)
W-W-L-W-W Form W-W-W-W-OT

The Sabres helped Montreal yesterday by beating Columbus. It wasn’t a perfect result, as both teams earned a point for being tied after regulation, but the Blue Jackets were limited to just the one when Jack Eichel ended proceedings on an individual effort in overtime.

It was a rare defeat for Columbus. who have only come out on the losing end seven times dating back to December 9. Only two of the 23 results in that time have been regulation losses.

No one could have predicted this success after what took place last season. The Blue Jackets loaded up at the trade deadline to make a run at the end of the contracts of Artemiy Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, and even then they just squeaked in ahead of Montreal. When the free agents all left in the off-season, there wasn’t much faith in their ability to get to the post-season this year.

That was indeed looking like the case two months in; on December 8 they ranked 27th in the NHL. Their turnaround — perhaps ironically given all the talk of Bobrovsky’s departure — has largely been thanks to their netminders.

Joonas Korpisalo was getting most of the starts this season, doing decently well, then really turning things up to lead the charge in December, getting named to the All-Star Game for his efforts ... only to get injured in a shootout. Next in line was Elvis Merzlikins, who had received a few games in the opening half of the year, but was then forced into everyday duties.

Merzlikins didn’t just pick up where his teammate had left off, he has improved on what Korpisalo was doing. He ranks fifth in save percentage among goalies to play at least 10 games, and hasn’t had a performance below .893 since Korpisalo was injured, with three of his past five decisions being shutout wins.

The Canadiens won’t be intimidated by a goalie playing at peak form, because they happen to have one of their own. As incredible as Merzlikins’ stats were in January, Carey Price was just a few points behind him in just about every category. He’s coming off a shutout win as well, making key saves on quality chances as the Habs kept increasing their lead, then locking the net down when they spent the third period in the penalty box. He’s been the biggest factor in an improving penalty kill, with his clean sheet yesterday enough to raise its rank from 23rd to 20th once a busy Saturday schedule had completed.

Indications are that today’s game is going to be a staring contest between these two. Unlike Price, however, Merzlikins has been away from the game for some time, first getting a nine-day vacation for the bye week and All-Star Game, and then spared yesterday’s game versus Buffalo to be fresh for the higher-ranked team today. Montreal will hope some rust has developed on the Latvian netminder, enough to be the difference in an important Eastern Conference battle.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Ilya Kovalchuk Nick Suzuki Joel Armia
Artturi Lehkonen Max Domi Nick Cousins
Ryan Poehling Nate Thompson Dale Weise

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Ben Chiarot Shea Weber
Marco Scandella Jeff Petry
Victor Mete Brett Kulak

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
Carey Price
Charlie Lindgren

Columbus Blue Jackets projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Nick Foligno Pierre-Luc Dubois Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Nathan Gerbe Boone Jenner Emil Bemstrom
Jakob Lilja Riley Nash Eric Robinson

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Markus Nutivaara Scott Harrington

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
Elvis Merzlikins
Matiss Kivlenieks