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

Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Game 80: Montreal Canadiens @ Ottawa Senators

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: APTN, CBC, CityTV (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: CBC Gem, ESPN+, Sportsnet+

Both the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators wanted to be playing for a post-season spot around this time of the season. Instead, they meet with three games left in the 2023-24 campaign in what is only a battle for positioning in the draft lottery. The Canadiens sit in 28th place with 73 points, the Senators one spot higher with 74, and this four-point game could be the biggest determinant of their relative order when the season for both teams comes to an end on Tuesday.

Neither team is as interested in the draft as their fans are. The Senators ended March on a five-game winning streak and have won two of their past three games, including an overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Montreal, meanwhile, took the New York Islanders to overtime after a 9-3 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers.

What both teams are interested in is showing that they are prepared to fight for a playoff spot next year by battling hard with some of the bubble teams in the standings, and there will probably only be room for one of them in next year’s post-season. The result of this game won’t count toward making that happen, but there’s still a chance to make a statement about which club is more ready for the challenge.

Canadiens Statistics Senators
30-37-12 Record 35-40-4
44.8% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 48.7% (23rd)
2.78 (27th) Goals per game 3.08 (17th)
3.39 (26th) Goals against per game 3.44 (27th)
17.5% (26th) PP% 17.6% (25th)
77.0% (22md) PK% 75.1% (29th)
0-2-0 Head-to-Head Record 2-0-0

The Canadiens are holding their secret weapon in reserve, allowing the newly signed Lane Hutson to have a few days off following his Frozen Four appearance before joining his new team. Since Kaiden Guhle still wasn’t involved in the Canadiens’ practice yesterday, he likely won’t be in the lineup either. It’s therefore not the ideal defensive formation that the Habs will put forward, but one filled with players needing to prove they can be part of the more competitive lineup in October.

Across the board the defencemen have been heavily involved in the Habs’ offensive output in recent weeks, Mike Matheson leads the team with nine points in April, then after the top-six forwards it’s Jordan Harris with four and Johnny Kovacevic, who has only played four games, with three. The blue-liners helped lead the offence to end last season, and they’ve been activating to make sure the team enjoys some offensive success to end the year.

As for the Senators, they’ve had contributions from Jakob Chychrun and Jake Sanderson on the back end as they wrap up good offensive seasons of their own, each with double-digit goal totals and at or near career highs in points. Outside of those two defencemen and Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson ahead of them, offence has been hard to come by for the Sens recently.

It’s a familiar story for the team that generates plenty of chances but doesn’t possess the finishing ability to capitalize. Shane Pinto has gone cold after his hot mid-season start following his gambling suspension, and Claude Giroux’s performance hasn’t been the same since Vladimir Tarasenko was traded away at the deadline. There’s a good argument to be made that they need a goal-scoring prospect worse than Montreal in this draft, but the players defined by their strong work ethic that Ottawa has targeted in recent years would probably give you a nasty look for even mentioning such a thing.

Despite the Senators’ overall scoring woes, they’ve had no issue putting the puck in the net versus Montreal this season, outscoring them 10-3, with goals from nine players, in two games in quick succession back in January. The Habs haven’t beaten Ottawa — or even claimed a point — since March 19, 2022, a sequence of eight regulation losses. Do the Habs put an end to that streak tonight, or does Ottawa move to three points up on their national rival with another win?

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