With Montreal seemingly on the cusp of regaining their early season play they have a difficult chore this evening at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. The Flames are one of the best home teams in the league, boasting an impressive 16-4-2 record on home ice including 4 straight wins. On the other hand, to say the Canadiens struggle away from Montreal would be an understatement. Of the Canadiens past 14 road contests, only once did they come out victorious.
On the plus side for the Canadiens they have won their first two games under new coach Bob Gainey, scoring 10 goals in those to games, 7 coming via the power play, and another paid shorthanded. However, Montreal’s power play may begin to struggle with offensively gifted defenseman Andrei Markov sidelined with a rotator cuff injury.
While Markov is expected to be out for at least 3 weeks which will take the Canadiens nearly to the Olympic break, two familiar faces were on the charter plane to Calgary and may find their names in the lineup. Richard Zednik who only missed a single game with a thumb injury and Tomas Plekanec who had missed 12 games with a knee injury may both be healthy enough to return to give the Canadiens some added spunk up front.
Man Power Advantages and Disadvantages
At even strength this season the Calgary Flames are much better than the Canadiens clearly outscoring them 5 on 5 but in the new NHL there is an added focus on special teams. Montreal’s power play is 10th in the league and red hot since the coaching change going 7 for 12 in their past two games. The Flames on the other hand are 19th and have only scored once on their past 11 power plays. Shorthanded, the Canadiens and Flames are quite comparable ranking 17th and 18th in the league respectfully.
Old Rivalry, Different Role
Although not recognized by many as one of the great hockey rivals, these two teams have played many important games against each other. Twice these teams have met in the Stanley Cup finals with the Habs triumphing in 1986 and the Flames becoming the only visiting team to win the cup in the Montreal Forum in 1989. Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau were members of that ’89 Canadiens club, and without a doubt remember the Cup Finals against the Flames very well and will look to exact some revenge on the other side of the bench.