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

Two of the hottest lottery teams match up at the Bell Centre.

Montreal Canadiens v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Blackhawks region: NBC Sports Chicago
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+

Acquired by the Montreal Canadiens at their home draft in the summer of 2022, Kirby Dach played the team that traded him away for the first time on November 25 when the Habs visited the Chicago Blackhawks. At that point of the season, it was becoming clear that the Blackhawks weren’t going to contend for a playoff spot, having traded Dach and Alex DeBrincat away in the off-season for first-round picks in that draft at the Bell Centre, but they put up a good fight in that contest.

With just four minutes remaining in regulation, Chicago found a tying goal on the power play, sending the game to overtime and ultimately a shootout. After Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki scored on the opening two attempts, Dach was given the chance by Martin St-Louis to secure the win. Getting booed as he prepared for his attempt, he fired a quick shot past goaltender Arvid Soderblom, then put his hand to his ear after silencing his former fanbase.

Since that game, which he played on the top line with those other two shootout participants, he had been bounced between a winger and a centre, now settling into a spot as a centreman on his own trio. As the matches go on, he’s looking more and more comfortable in that role, showing off his skills in all three zones and all situations. Now, close to three months after that first game, he welcomes the Blackhawks into his new home eager to show off his new form.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Blackhawks
Canadiens Statistics Blackhawks
22-27-4 Record 16-30-5
44.0% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 40.5% (30th)
2.64 (29th) Goals per game 2.45 (31st)
3.66 (28th) Goals against per game 3.61 (26th)
16.4% (29th) PP% 18.5% (26th)
72.9% (29th) PK% 75.8% (23rd)
1-0-0 H2H Record 0-0-1

Dach isn’t alone in developing during this rebuilding season. Of course there is Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and the incredible things he’s done so far, but you could argue that more important is what has happened on the blue line. Kaiden Guhle only needed 36 games to show that he’s ready for a big role in the league, and Arber Xhekaj proved he had plenty to bring as an NHL player as well. Now with both of those players dealing with injuries, the Habs still have Justin Barron, Johnny Kovacevic, and Jordan Harris playing very well in elevated roles. All three have been very noticeable since the Habs returned from their bye week for their offensive play, and the newly extended Harris comes into this match having notched a pair of goals versus the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

Montreal’s rebuild is well on its way, but Chicago’s is just getting started. We highlighted how many long-term deals the New York Islanders, Montreal’s opponent on Wednesday, had on the payroll; the Blackhawks don’t have a single forward on their NHL squad signed beyond next season.

That means those twin eight-year, $10.5-million-cap-hit deals for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are just about up, officially signalling the end of what was a historic era for the franchise with three Stanley Cups. Kane has had a tough go of it this season after losing linemate DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators, currently sitting on just 35 points through 48 games. His shooting percentage of 5.7% is the lowest of his career, and has been gradually dropping over the last five seasons. He’s preparing for his tenure with the team that drafted him to come to an end before the trade deadline, and despite his decline in goals, a contending club is sure to be intrigued by a player with a history of offensive output, especially one who put up 92 points just last year, tying a career high with 66 assists.

Toews has returned to action after missing the 2020-21 season with an autoimmune disease, but hasn’t had the same impact as he once did. He posted just 37 points in 71 games last year, and currently has 28 in 48 contests. He’s now out of the lineup with an illness, not playing since January 28. A few teams may like to have his vaunted leadership qualities for a post-season run, or at least his power-play prowess (currently with eight goals on the man advantage), but there will be concerns about how effective he would be as a rental player.

With all of this uncertainty for this year and the future of the team, the Blackhawks have managed to put some good results together in 2023. They have won eight of their last 14 games, matching the win total from their first 37 contests.

Through that stretch, the offence has been led by Seth Jones with 13 points, and Max Domi who has moved into a tie with Kane at the top of the team leaderboard with 10 points in that time. With Jones signed long-term and reports that Domi is interested in making a long-term home in Chicago after bouncing around a few teams in recent years, perhaps that duo can be the base the team begins to reform around.