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

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Game 71: Montreal Canadiens @ Colorado Avalanche

Start time: **9:00 PM EDT / 6:00 PM PDT**
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Avalanche region: Altitude
Streaming: ESPN+, RDS, TSN+

Thanks to a hot start that chased starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer, the Canadiens got their first win of the road trip in Seattle. It was a nice reward for Trevor Letowski, who was acting as head coach for the first four games of the trip, finally getting some goals to help the cause. It turned out to be the final game in his temporary role because Martin St-Louis is back with the team. His son has stabilized after some complications from an injury sustained while playing hockey, and with the danger passed, the coach is ready to get back behind the bench.

Despite how slow the Habs started this final long trip of the season, they now have a shot at going home with five points in five games if they can beat Colorado. That’s something no team has been able to do since March 2 as the team from Denver is on a nine-game winning streak. But the Canadiens have already beaten the club once, back on January 15 after getting a late winning goal from Joel Armia. Montreal could join just one other team, the Florida Panthers, in securing a sweep of their season series with the Avalanche.

If Montreal can’t do that, which you’d have to say is the more likely scenario, the Avalanche will have the chance to ride this winning streak all the way to the top spot in the NHL. They’re in a group of five teams siting on 97 points, and either the Panthers or Boston Bruins are guaranteed to hit 99 tonight as they go head-to-head. The wild-card races are still fairly tight in the league, but it’s the Presidents’ Trophy race that is most wide-open with about three weeks left to go.

Canadiens Statistics Avalanche
26-32-12 Record 46-20-5
44.9% (28th) Scoring-chances-for % 54.4% (5th)
2.71 (28th) Goals per game 3.76 (1st)
3.40 (27th) Goals against per game 2.97 (12th)
17.8% (24th) PP% 24.8% (7th)
76.3% (26th) PK% 81.9% (9th)
1-0-0 Head-to-Head Record 0-1-0

The Art Ross Trophy competition is also tightly contested with Nikita Kucherov at the top, Nathan MacKinnon not far behind, and Connor McDavid putting together a late charge. That race may come down to the wire, but most observers think MacKinnon has the Hart Trophy vote secured. Colorado has dealt with injuries all season long, missing Gabriel Landeskog for the entire campaign and Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen for long portions. They’ve had 34 skaters play for them this season as a result and still are in position to earn home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

MacKinnon is leading the team by 26 points, both its top goal-scorer and setup man. He has at least one point in all 34 games he’s played at Ball Arena this season, and should that carry through the final game, he will break one of Wayne Gretzky’s records.

As usual, it has also been a good year for Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, and Nichushkin joins them as a better than a point-per-game player. Jonathan Drouin, in his first year with the team, has been a key member of the supporting cast, potting 46 points so far, on pace to beat the 53 points he had in his third year in Tampa Bay and second year in Montreal by a couple of points.

Drouin is playing on Colorado’s second line with Lehkonen and newcomer Casey Mittelstadt, acquired at the trade deadline for offensive blue-liner Bowen Byram. The three players are working well together, helping to provide some secondary scoring behind what MacKinnon is providing in 23 minutes each night.

The player Montreal acquired from Colorado for this season is faring quite well himself. Alex Newhook had a two-goal game in Seattle on Sunday, the third time this season he’s done that. He’s likely going to see a lot of Drouin tonight, getting a big hand from Armia, who has been helping to force teams to play more defence than they probably expect when facing the 27th-place Canadiens.

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