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Weekend preview: Les Canadiennes start Clarkson Cup defence vs Boston Blades

Despite a bunch of new faces, the team has the same goal in mind

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

After a long-awaited Clarkson Cup championship, and a long offseason, Les Canadiennes return to the ice with two games against the Boston Blades to start their 2017-18 season.

Last season Montreal won all six of their games against Boston, four of which were shutouts.

The Canadiennes team that will be taking the ice will be quite different from last season’s team. Notable absences are Marie-Philip Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau, who are centralized with Team Canada, preparing for the Olympics. Other veterans are missing as well. Goaltender Charline Labonté retired this summer, Caroline Ouellette is on leave for the first part of the season, and defender Julie Chu is not on the active roster due to her commitments, including being head coach at Concordia University.

Montreal made several key additions in the off-season including acquiring Emerance Maschmeyer from the Calgary Inferno. In her rookie season last year, Maschmeyer led the league with a 1.49 goals against average and 0.946 save percentage but only played in eight games as Calgary split the net with three goaltenders.

It will also be the first regular season game in the bleu-blanc-rouge for Kayla Tutino, who will be facing her old team. Les Canadiennes acquired the CWHL’s 2016 first overall draft pick from the Blades as part of the Nachi Fujimoto trade. Ironically, Fujomoto also re-joined Les Canadiennes after playing for the Blades last year. Fujimoto was re-acquired for draft picks.

The absence of Tutino is not the only reason the Blades roster will be looking different this year. The team’s list of forwards now includes the CWHL’s 2017 first overall draft pick, forward Courtney Turner.

Besides Turner, they have 13 other rookies including forwards Casey Stathopoulos who played at Sacred Heart, Kaitlin Spurling who played in the Austrian women’s league, and Taylor Wasylk who played for Team USA at the 2012 World Championships.

Their blue line will also have a different look following the retirement of Olympic gold medalist and team captain Tara Watchorn. Returning players Dru Burns and Sato Kikuchi are joined by Kristina Brown, who was a forward for her first two CWHL seasons, and five rookies.

The Blades do have their top three scorers from a year ago returning in Kate Leary, Meghan Grieves and Melissa Bizzari. They also have starting goaltender Lauren Dahm who had an .882 save percentage last season and had two wins.

With the expansion of the league to include two new teams in China, the new 28-game schedule format has Montreal and Boston facing off for only four games this season.

Saturday's home opener will be played at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard with a 5:30 p.m. puck drop. The Sunday game will be played at Claude Robillard Sports Complex with the puck dropping at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are available here.

If you can't make it to Saturday's game, it will be streamed on CWHL Live for free.

After Sunday’s game, fans are invited to put on their skates for the first ‘Skate with Les Canadiennes’ of the season.