After a long summer and a number of new players added to the fold, the 2008-2009 Montreal Canadiens kick off their centenary season on Friday night in Buffalo, New York (7:30pm RDS HD , MSG-B HD).
The Habs go into Friday night looking to live up to high expectations. Montreal has a few minor injury concerns going into the weekend. It appears as though forwards Chris Higgins and Georges Laraque will be out of the lineup as well as defenceman Francis Boullion. These injuries will give Mathieu Dandenault and Steve Begin a spot in the team on the fourth line.
Carey Price will get the start on Friday in goal and will want to get off on the right foot with a win. The powerplay, which played a large part in Montreal’s success last season, will look similar to last season but with one significant difference. Mark Streit left Montreal the Canadiens blueline in the off-season as a free-agent to the New York Islanders. This year will feature Alex Tanguay starting the season on the blue line on the powerplay. In order for Montreal to have success again this season the powerplay will have to be firing on all cylinders again.
Montreal will face a familiar foe on Friday as Craig Rivet was named captain of the Buffalo Sabres the other day. Ryan Miller will get the nod in goal for Buffalo. On the injury front, Buffalo will be without Paul Gaustad who will miss the first month of the season after going thumb surgery.
Montreal will be the favourite going into the game on Friday, however, there are no “easy games” in the new NHL and Buffalo will get an added boost from their fans in their home opener.
On Saturday night Montreal rolls into the Air Canada Center to play their first game on Hockey Night in Canada of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00pm CBC-HD, RDS-HD, NHLTV-US).
Guy Carbonneau has his hands tied in terms of lineup changes due to the injuries, however, he did hint at the possibility of Jaroslav Halak getting the start in goal on Saturday. Kyle Chipchura, who made the team out of camp, will also be an option to center the fourth line against the Leafs. Toronto will be without their newest multi-million dollar player Jeff Finger who is on the Injured Reserve list. Besides Finger, the Leafs are almost entirely healthy. Vesa Toskala will see the bulk of the work in the Leaf net this season and expect to see him there on Saturday.
Toronto on paper does not have a great looking team going into the 2008-2009 season. Having said that, the Leafs will be fired up playing their first home game of the season in front of the rabid hockey fans in Toronto.
Montreal will get Sunday off before taking on the Philadelphia Flyers on Thanksgiving Monday.