Canadiens vs Penguins: Game Preview, Start Time, and TV Schedule

Will the Habs bring their ‘A’ game for their first tilt on home ice?

When a team makes changes of the magnitude that the Montreal Canadiens did this summer, it’s difficult to expect all cylinders to fire immediately. Through two games, those growing pains have been on full display.

The Habs handled the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, but not in the decisive terms their talent advantage should have allowed them. Al Montoya was forced to make a couple of impressive saves, most notably when Evander Kane snuck in alone for an early breakaway. Meanwhile, the Canadiens’ powerplay generated few legitimate chances on either of their man advantages in the game.

That trend continued into Saturday’s affair, where the powerplay took some time to warm up before making itself a part of the Montreal comeback. Worse though, the Habs couldn’t contend with Ottawa’s speed and aggression, struggling to break out of their own zone and doubly so to break into Ottawa’s - unless it was Alexander Radulov at the controls.

Problems like these aren’t new for Marc Bergevin’s Habs, but without Carey Price to insure the whole operation, the margin for error can be pretty slim. Tonight, it’s going to be especially so.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are missing the NHL’s foremost superstar, Sidney Crosby,  but by virtue of their other pre-eminent centre,  they’re still one of the best teams in the Eastern  Conference.

That primary scoring option is  Evgeni Malkin, who bagged a cool 58 points in 57 games last season. Malkin went into Saturday’s game against the Ducks skating alongside Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson, a promising youngster who the Pens hope can deliver some secondary scoring this season.

In the Penguins’ season-opener against the Capitals, it was the strong work of Hornqvist that caused a turnover on an attempted zone exit. The recipient of the turnover, Conor Sheary, immediately fed Malkin, who had enough time and space to raise a homestead and work the land. Instead, he slipped the puck deftly past reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby, giving his team a second period lead.

It doesn’t get any easier with the HBK line, well-known for their heroics during last season’s Stanley Cup run. Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel all have skill and speed to burn. If they can get on the dump out happy Canadiens defence the way the Senators did on Saturday, it won’t be pretty.

Of course, solving this sort of problem is exactly what good teams do with two days off. Whether it’s allowing the blended forward lines to regroup and continue to learn each other’s tendencies, or working on powerplay zone entries, or finding a way to build some momentum coming out of their own zone, this new group of Habs will be another game and another practice ahead of where they were heading into their tilt with the Senators when they take the ice tonight.

The Canadiens have championship aspirations, and even with the Penguins playing the second half of a back-to-back without their best player, a win tonight would help to improve Montreal’s credibility around the league.

If they can solve one of their big problems from the Ottawa game tonight, it’ll be an encouraging step forward for a team trying to prove it belongs at the front of the pack.

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