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

The Habs start their California road trip at SAP Center.

San Jose Sharks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ San Jose Sharks

How to watch

Start time: **10:30 PM EST / 7:30 PM PST**
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Sharks region: NBC Sports California
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+

The San Jose Sharks have made one of the largest trades of the season, both in terms of the calibre of player being shipped out and the sheer quantity of assets involved in the deal. Timo Meier was sent to the New Jersey Devils, with some other pieces, for a haul of prospects and draft picks. A total of 13 pieces were involved in the trade, six from San Jose, and seven from New Jersey.

Fabian Zetterlund may be the only one of those acquisitions we actually see on the ice tonight. He played 45 games for the Devils in this his rookie season, including last Tuesday’s versus Montreal, so the opponent may be more familiar for his first game in San Jose than his teammates. As far as the Habs are concerned, the swapping in of a player with 20 points is preferable to facing Meier and his 52.

San Jose won’t be the only team debuting a new player because it’s expected that Denis Gurianov will be in Montreal’s formation following his acquisition for Evgenii Dadonov on Sunday.

If the lines remain the same to the ones that practised on Monday morning, that debut will be taking place next to Nick Suzuki as Martin St-Louis gives his new charge a proper chance to prove himself with Montreal’s top centreman. It will allow Gurianov more freedom to use the offensive talents that resulted in 20 goals back in 2019-20 than he had with the Dallas Stars in a fourth-line role playing 10 minutes per night.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Sharks
Canadiens Statistics Sharks
25-30-4 Record 18-30-12
44.2% (28th) Scoring-chances-for % 51.8% (12th)
2.69 (27th) Goals per game 2.97 (23rd)
3.63 (28th) Goals against per game 3.62 (27th)
16.8% (29th) PP% 18.6% (26th)
73.6% (28th) PK% 83.6% (3rd)
0-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-0

The chances of Kent Hughes making another splash during this Pacific Coast road trip have gone up with Joel Edmundson set to make his return. That happened quite quickly, at least in terms of how slow the process has been from recovery to initial on-ice sessions to game action for numerous Habs players this season. He’ll have two games (tonight and Thursday in Los Angeles) to show interested teams he’s fit enough to help them on their playoff run.

Edmundson was paired with Kaiden Guhle on the ice yesterday morning, who is now fully recovered from a knee injury sustained late in December. It appears that both will play in tonight’s game, perhaps as a third pairing with limited minutes to get both back up to game speed.

A player who spent the seasons following his first-round selection by Montreal in the 2020 NHL Draft developing his offensive game must have been raring to get back on the ice after seeing the shift in the Habs’ tactics since the All-Star break. Guhle had gotten out to the lead in points among defencemen with 14 (all at even strength) at the time of his injury, and he held that position right until the bye week. In the three weeks since, three blue-liners have overtaken him, and he’s dropped from his spot at seventh on the team scoring list down to 13th with that aggressive play resulting in more goals.

The entire defence corps should be inspired by one of the best blue-line producers the game has seen on the opposite side. With the marked improvements in their point totals recently, the seven healthy defencemen on Montreal’s roster (Edmundson, Guhle, Mike Matheson, Jordan Harris, David Savard, Johnny Kovacevic, and Justin Barron) have a combined 85 points this year. Erik Karlsson has 77.

That performance had some wondering if he would be moved at the deadline, despite the fact that there are four more years remaining on his contract that carries an $11.5-million cap hit. The Sharks are clearly in a rebuild stage, and the return for the two-time Norris Trophy-winner could accelerate that process with a major return. But Karlsson has taken that possibility off the table for now by reaffirming his no-trade clause, at least waiting until the summer when the top teams aren’t mired in the cap crunch they find themselves in at the end of the season.

With no Meier in the picture, and outside of Karlsson, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl are the players the Habs have to be most mindful of. They’ve stayed productive despite San Jose sitting just four points ahead of last place in the league, and they both scored at the Bell Centre in the first meeting of the season on November 29, a 4-0 shutout performance.

When the Canadiens made this trip a season ago, they were the ones to leave with the 4-0 result, their first win versus the Sharks in San Jose since 1999, and one of just 22 wins Montreal had on its way to a last-place finish and the first overall pick. Perhaps now with the team playing quite well in recent games and the energy created from some new and returning players, the Habs can make it wins in back-to-back years to plant the seed of a streak in their favour at SAP Center.