How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: NHL Network
In the Predators region: Bally Sports South
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, Sportsnet Now
The list of players the Montreal Canadiens have under contract but currently cannot play for the team is growing by the day. Shea Weber, Carey Price, Joel Edmundson, and Paul Byron were on it before the season even started. Since then, it’s added Mike Hoffman, Brendan Gallagher and Sami Niku are out with positive COVID tests, and now Josh Anderson and Jeff Petry join them all after the Habs’ last game on Thursday.
It will therefore be a Montreal Canadiens cover band that takes to the ice versus the Nashville Predators in Music City. Whether those helming the team wanted them to or not, we’ll be seeing some of the younger players and AHL standouts donning the jersey in the 26th game of the season.
As we get close to completing the first third of the campaign, the Canadiens are three points up on the 32nd-place team in the NHL, and have played four more games than those Ottawa Senators. These replacement players who would have seen just the odd shift for a team in the playoff hunt should now be granted decent looks to see what they offer at the NHL level.
Tale of the Tape
|48.9% (21st)||Scoring-chances-for %||49.6% (18th)|
|2.24 (29th)||Goals per game||2.74 (23rd)|
|3.56 (29th)||Goals against per game||2.83 (14th)|
|13.0% (29th)||PP%||24.6% (7th)|
|69.3% (30th)||PK%||78.4% (23rd)|
That’s an opportunity Laurent Dauphin didn’t receive while in the Nashville Predators organization. He spent 60 games with their minor-league affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, before he was traded to Montreal for Michael McCarron; a swap of two early-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft who hadn’t performed to their clubs’ expectations. McCarron has seen 12 games in the top league since, but tonight — if he gets the call from the head coach — will be Dauphin’s first for Montreal, and first since January 10, 2019 with the Arizona Coyotes.
He had found a good leadership role with the Laval Rocket over the past two calendar years spanning three seasons, but his production this year really thrust him into the spotlight and made it impossible for the Habs to ignore him when they needed a body. At the very least, it’s a good reward for a player who has bided his time while bringing a consistent effort in the minors, and that’s important for an NHL team to recognize. The draftees like Jesse Ylönen and Lukas Vejdemo looking for their shot will have their turn soon enough as the Canadiens look ahead to the trade deadline.
The Habs don’t have many of their own draft picks on defence in the AHL. Instead they have a found gem in Corey Shueneman, whom they signed to his first NHL contract in April after he helped the Laval Rocket become one of the top teams in the league a season ago, and that put him in the position to earn this current opportunity with the Canadiens.
The Predators are dealing with no such issues on their roster; there’s not a single player out of the lineup with injury. They’ve been one of the healthiest teams in the league, with less than a third of the man-games lost that Montreal has (a number that’s about to balloon). That’s helped them to stay in the playoff race despite a lack of offence, currently out of a playoff spot but just a win away from moving into second place in the Central Division.
That offence did get a boost with the return of Filip Forsberg. He was their one big loss to the injury bug in the month of November, out for nine games with an upper-body injury. Earlier this week, he posted four goals on the Columbus Blue Jackets, and has eight points in the five games since his return.
His absence overlapped with his team’s trip to Montreal two weeks ago, though Matt Duchene was still in the lineup to score a hat trick on that night. Nashville’s issue was that the normally tough defensive club was disinterested in protecting its net, and the Canadiens scored six goals. The Predators allowed the same amount a week ago, and Montreal was also scoring six on the Pittsburgh Penguins at the same time; an odd trend for each team that hasn’t often see such numbers on the scoreboard.
You’d probably make a lot of money if you picked Montreal to score that many tonight with nearly half of the regulars out of the lineup, and Nashville surely doesn’t want to be fooled twice in a fortnight by one of the worst teams in the league. Maybe if Dauphin’s hands stay hot he can give the team a chance at approaching that number again.