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

Despite the win, it’s still a sluggish Canadiens team that heads to Denver for a date with the defending champions.

Montreal Canadiens v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Colorado Avalanche

How to watch

Start time: **8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST**
In Canada: Sportsnet (English)
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the Avalanche region: Altitude Sports

After three consecutive defeats, the Montreal Canadiens stumbled back into the win column on Monday night. But if ever a win felt like a loss, this was it. The Habs allowed 33 shots and 30 scoring chances through the first two periods of play to the Arizona Coyotes — and were only spared by the heroics of Samuel Montembeault. Make no mistake, despite the win, the Canadiens are facing their first prolonged slump of the season, and they’ve picked the worst time to do it, as Tempe was merely the first stop on a season-long seven-game road swing. Next up: the Mile High City and the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Avalanche
Canadiens Statistics Avalanche
15-15-2 Record 17-11-2
45.7% (26th) Scoring-chances-for % 52.8% (7th)
2.75 (27th) Goals per game 2.93 (23rd)
3.50 (24th) Goals against per game 2.67 (6th)
13.7% (32nd) PP% 27.2% (6th)
79.3% (16th) PK% 76.8% (21st)
0-1-1 H2H Record ('21-22) 2-0-0

Late night, come home. Work sucks, I know.

As the setting sun dried the spilt Coors at Denver’s Civic Center Park, the Colorado Avalanche faced an offseason full of questions. They had savvily leveraged their draft and prospect capital throughout the season and at the NHL Trade Deadline to acquire key cogs in their championship run. But now, would players like Artturi Lehkonen, Josh Manson, and Darcy Kuemper be part of the team moving forward? Inevitably, sacrifices had to be made. To re-sign Valeri Nichushkin, Lehkonen, Manson, and Nathan MacKinnon, meant Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, and Kuemper were lost to free agency. Nonetheless, despite some questions as to whether the likes of Evan Rodrigues and Alexandar Georgiev could fill the gaps opened by free agency, the 2022-23 Avalanche were expected to still be a juggernaut. Then the injuries hit.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog had offseason surgery and is not expected back until January. The story is the same for Darren Helm, who has only recently resumed skating. Bowen Byram and Nichushkin both went down in November, with the former still on the injured reserve. Likewise, Manson exited the lineup in early December and has yet to return. Samuel Girard, Lehkonen, Devon Toews, and Rodrigues have all been out of the lineup. But the biggest blow to the Avalanche’s quest to find a way again is MacKinnon’s upper-body injury, suffered in a December 6th loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The offensive talisman for the Avs suffered the injury on a hit by Scott Laughton and is not expected to return until the new year.

She left me roses by the stairs. Surprises let me know she cares.

But championship teams don’t let all the small things get to them. Despite, at one point, icing a top-six featuring Mikko Rantanen alongside Charles Hudon, Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor, J.T. Compher, and Andrew Cogliano, the Avalanche are still very much in the thick of things. Sure, few probably expected the defending champions to be eight points behind the division-leading Dallas Stars heading into the Christmas break, but the Avs are still a comfortable fourth in the Central. ahead of the St. Louis Blues by three points with three games in hand. In terms of the playoff picture, the Avalanche are seventh, level with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames on points but with three games in hand on both.

To make matters worse for the Canadiens, the Avalanche are starting to find their form as bodies return to the lineup. Montreal arrives at Ball Arena to face off against a team that has won four out of their last five games. More than that, the Avs, apart from Landeskog and MacKinnon, are just about as healthy as they’ve ever been this season. In their last game, Colorado was able to ice a top-6 forward corps of Rantanen (21 goals), Lehkonen (21 points), Nichushkin (16 points in 13 games), Rodrigues, Compher, and Newhook. On defence, Cale Makar is just matter-of-factly turning in another near point-per-game season, while Toews has 17 points himself. Girard and Erik Johnson round out the top two pairings. Meanwhile, Georgiev is putting up better numbers than Kuemper did last year.

Just say it ain’t so, I will not go. Turn the lights off, Carry me home.

If the Avalanche has a weakness right now, it would still be their depth. Yes, their injury situation has improved to the point where Hudon and Alex Galchenyuk no longer feature in the lineup, but the fourth line and third pairing are still vulnerable. For example, sixth defenceman Brad Hunt had a -6 on-ice shot differential against the New York Islanders on Monday — a 25-point swing from the team’s overall +19.

The question is whether or not the Canadiens, with depth issues themselves up front beyond the Cole Caufield-Nick Suzuki-Kirby Dach trio, as well as injuries to two key veteran defenders, can do anything to take advantage of the Avalanche’s vulnerabilities. With the veterans still struggling to hit second gear and the rookies pushed to the edges of their comfort zones, Martin St-Louis finds himself limited in terms of tactical options. More than that, the team as a whole has lately lacked the same energy and aggression that they displayed in October and November. Face-to-face with their opposition, the Canadiens simply find themselves blinking more and more often as the schedule moves from game 1 to game 82.