The Canadiens embark on a brief two game road trip starting tonight in Phoenix. Montreal goes into this evening with a 8-10-0 record putting them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and currently out of a playoff spot. Phoenix on the other hand has been one of the surprise teams this season after a crisis summer. The Coyotes go into tonight’s match with a record of 10-7-0 and sit 6th in the Western Conference. The tour of games against former Habs continues tonight, as Robert Lang will face off against the team he played for last season, before succumbing to a season ending injury.
Montreal is coming off a lackluster performance on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames in which the Habs lost 1-0. There were few positives if any to take away from Tuesday and Montreal will have to be a lot better tonight if they want to get a point against an invigorated Coyotes team. Goals have been hard to come by lately for the Habs and it will not be any easier against Ilya Bryzgalov this evening.
Phoenix is coming off a 4-3 loss to Ducks last Saturday. The Coyotes were trailing 4-0 going into the 3rd period and managed to claw their way back into the game. Keith Yandle, Scottie Upshall and Shane Doan scoring the three goals for Phoenix. One of the more underrated players in the league Shane Doan leads the Coyotes in points this season with 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points. Ed Jovanovski is also having a very solid season, with 5 goals 8 assists and 13 points. Although Bryzgalov was pulled from the Ducks game he is having a great year with a GAA of 1.98 and 3 shutouts…not a good sign for a Habs team struggling to find the back of the net.
Although the days pass, the injuries remain the same for Montreal. Andrei Markov (ankle), Ryan O’Byrne (knee), Matt D’Agostini (concussion), Hal Gill (foot) and Georges Laraque (back) are all still out. However, on a positive note O’Byrne is skating again and could be reintegrated into the lineup in a week or two. The top line will be reunited again tonight: Gomez, Cammalleri, and Gionta. The second line will see Tom Pyatt get a shot to play alongside Andrei Kostistyn and Tomas Plekanec. The third and arguably one of the more effective lines for Montreal this season will stay intact, while the fourth line unites Jacques Martin’s doghouse: Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse and NHL rookie Ryan white. Martin will announce his starting goalie later today.
Phoenix is one of the rare NHL teams that has not suffered from the injury bug so far in this early season. Kurt Sauer (headaches) and Zbynek Michalek (lower body) are both out indefinitely. Ed Jovanovski will be a game time decision for tonight’s game after picking up a lower body knock last week. Look for the solid Ilya Bryzgalov to be in goal for the Coyotes tonight.
Keys to the Game:
To put it into one word: score. The Habs have had a terrible time scoring lately and tonight will not be any easier, especially if Jovanovski is in the lineup for Phoenix. With Tom Pyatt given a shot to play on the second line tonight, perhaps he can bring what it takes to get the second line going. Whether it be through the power play or just crashing the net, the Habs need to find a solution or they will find themselves inching ever closer towards the basement of the Eastern Conference.
With positive things becoming increasingly harder to say about this team they do have one stat going in their favour heading into tonight’s game. Montreal has not lost to Phoenix since the 1998-1999 season. This includes 3 straight victories in Phoenix and 1 tie. Although it is early in the season these two upcoming road games are huge for Montreal the bottom line is they must come away with points. Every point counts as we all know when it comes to the middle of April.
The game tonight can be seen on RDS (HD) and FS-A (HD) . Puck drop is at 9pm ET.