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Canadiens @ Senators: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

With the season now one-third complete, Montreal and Ottawa meet for the first time.

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Ottawa Senators

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English)
In the Canadiens/Senators region: RDS (French)

The Ottawa Senators have been in the news a lot in 2022. Near the tail end of last season, long-time owner Eugene Melnyk passed away, and many wondered what the fate would be of the organization. It had operated as a budget franchise and seemed perennially locked in a rebuild. When Melnyk’s daughters took control of the team, the vision was accelerated. It was no longer about just hoping enough prospects could graduate to the NHL at the same time to become a competitive team, but more of a hybrid strategy with a big helping hand from some established NHL veterans.

The two biggest deals were a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for Alex DeBrincat and the signing of Claude Giroux to a three-year contract in free agency. Suddenly the team was looking like more of a threat in the Atlantic Division, ready to at least put itself in the conversation for a playoff spot.

It did look like that was the case when they won their first four home games to get out to a 4-2 record. They scored a total of 22 goals in those games, beating the likes of the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars. But they were also dealt some bad news: Josh Norris, their number-one centre, was injured in just his fifth game of the year, and was facing the possibility of missing the remainder of the season.

Following that 4-2-0 start, the Senators lost seven consecutive games, and 11 of their next 13. They simply couldn’t find a way to outscore their opponents, often ending up down by a goal with the seconds ticking away. In the most competitive division from top to bottom in the league, they plummeted to last place, where they remain ahead of their first game of the season versus the Montreal Canadiens.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Senators
Canadiens Statistics Senators
14-12-2 Record 12-14-2
45.5% (28th) Scoring-chances-for % 52.9% (8th)
2.86 (26th) Goals per game 3.07 (17th)
3.46 (23rd) Goals against per game 3.18 (19th)
14.4% (32nd) PP% 27.4% (6th)
80.8% (10th) PK% 78.6% (17th)
2-2-0 H2H Record (21-22) 2-2-0

The situation for Ottawa has significantly improved from what it was a few weeks ago. The club salvaged what began as an 0-2 trip through California and Nevada by winning the final two games, and that rebound began a run of six wins in the last nine contests; back on the same pace, they were in their hot start to the season. And they also received encouraging news on Norris in the last couple of days: his shoulder injury has been healing on its own. Not only does he not require season-ending surgery, but he might be recovered and ready to play sometime after the holiday break. With all of the Senators’ pieces (and Norris’s) falling back into place, it’s too early to write off a spirited rise up the standings in the final two-thirds of the year.

One of the first teams they’ll face on their march up the order is Montreal. The Habs are trying to come out of a slump of their own, registering 30 shots on goal in the shootout win over the Calgary Flames for just the second time in their last nine matches. Tonight’s effort will tell us if that effort becomes a trend or just stands as an outlier amidst this current funk.

There was a sigh of relief among Habs fans on Tuesday morning when the Canadiens confirmed the report from Dr. Juraj Slafkovský the night before that the issue that knocked Cole Caufield out of Monday’s game wouldn’t keep him out of any further action. We got a glimpse of what life might look like without the Habs’ top finisher when they failed to convert on a four-minute power play in overtime (which knocked them down to 32nd in the NHL in that situation), so it’s good news for those who want the Canadiens to go on a late-season run in search of a playoff spot and those who just want to see entertaining losses for the rest of the season.

Perhaps Caufield and Nick Suzuki won’t be alone in giving people something to cheer about, because Slafkovský is becoming more clinical in his own offensive game. He was very good on Monday, and the Canadiens would have been dealt another loss if he hadn’t set up the tying goal in the third period. His scouting profile was as a battler who would win the puck along the boards and then set up his teammates, and that’s what he found success with in the last outing.

Montreal is going to need multiple lines going if they plan to hold off the Senators in tonight’s game and in the final three, especially if Norris is coming back into the fold. Even without their top centre, the Sens have five players with at least 24 points, and no one is particularly close to achieving that on the Habs side outside of the dynamic duo. Any end-of-season charge for the Canadiens is going to be the result of that changing.