Hotel rooms will be a tough to find in Montreal this weekend as both hockey’s oldest rivalry is renewed for the fourth time this NHL season and the Canadian Liberal party is in the midst of selecting a new party leader. Michael Ignatieff appears to be the front runner with Bob Rae following close behind, the first vote took place yesterday evening and will continue until one candidate has 50% plus one vote.
The Maple Leafs arrived in Montreal early Thursday morning and are reeling after three consecutive losses the last of which was a 5-0 loss to the Atlantic Division leading Atlanta Thrashers. Leafs coach Paul Maurice has reunited Captain Mats Sundin with Alex Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov, dropping Kyle Wellwood to the second line with Matt Stajan and Jeff O’Neill. The reason for these moves is because of a lack of offence from the Leafs over the last three games they have scored just twice.
The Canadiens are having struggles of their own as they have lost two of their last three in regulation for the third time this season. The Canadiens are having some offensive struggles of their own only potting more then 2 goals once in their past five games, thankfully for the Canadiens they are the one of the top 3 defensive teams in the Eastern Conference.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau informed members of the media that Guillaume Latendresse will not be accompanying the Canadian World Junior team to Sweden over the Christmas break.
The Leafs are leading the season series with the Canadiens by a 2-1 margin. The first two games were not solved in the fist 65 minutes and ended in a shootout with the Canadiens winning the first in early October, the Leafs returned the favor later that month. The third game was a different story as the Leafs took advantage of the power play routing the Canadiens 5-1.
In goal for the Maple Leafs will be Andrew Raycroft who lost his only contest with the Canadiens this season in shootout. Raycroft has actually dropped three straight to the Habs but enjoyed success in his rookie season posting a 2-1-1 record against Montreal. Two hundred feet away will be Cristobal Huet who just finished a splendid November which saw him receive the NHL’s Third Star for the month of November and he will be presented with the Molson Cup of the month honors prior to tonight’s game. Huet has only lost one of his last seven starts and in those game has a save percentage of .940 and a goal against average of 1.71.
1. The Toronto Maple Leafs average the most shots per game and Montreal allows more then 28 other teams, that is a bad mix. In this years season series the Leafs have out shot the Canadiens by a 131-81 count.
2. Tomas Kaberle who earlier this year recorded a hat trick against the Montreal Canadiens really must enjoy playing the Habs as he has collected 9 goals and 30 assists against the bleu blanc et rouge his best totals against any NHL team.
3. Canadiens Captain Saku Koivu had 10 points in 8 games last year against the Maple Leafs but has struggled this year against the division rivals scoring one goal and is yet to pick up an assist in the first three meetings.