The cellar-dwelling Canadiens host the Florida Panthers tonight as they try to
break their 5-game losing streak (0-3-2). The Canadiens have struggled
mightily out of the gate, having won only once in this early season.
Following a 5-4 overtime loss to the streaking Maple Leafs, Montreal shook up
its line-up, sending Brock Trotter and a 7th round draft pick to Phoenix for
Petteri Nokelainen and Garrett Stafford. With Nokelainen’s arrival, the
4th line will have a new look, as both Aaron Palushaj and Andreas Engqvist were
demoted to Hamilton to make space for him and the newly-recalled Michael
The Panthers are presently in the midst of a roster shake-up as
well; GM Dave Tallon sent David Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a 3rd round draft
pick to Vancouver for veteran wingers Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson on
Saturday night. The Canadiens will be without Andrei Markov, Chris
Campoli, Ryan White and Scott Gomez tonight. Jaroslav Spacek will return
from injury and Alexei Emelin will be a healthy scratch.
The projected line-ups for this contest are:
Plekanec – Gionta
Moen – Eller – Kostitsyn
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Cole
Darche – Nokelainen – Blunden
Gorges – Subban
Weiss – Versteeg
Upshall – Goc – Kopecky
Bradley – Mathias – Kennedy
Sturm – Santorelli – Skille
Campbell – Garrison
HW’s Keys to Victory
Special Teams Must be ‘Specially Good: Montreal’s
powerplay woes have been well-documented this season, as they have only
converted 6.9% of their chances with the man-advantage. Conversely, the
Panthers are doing quite well in this regard, and their 26.7% conversion rate
ranks them 4th in the NHL. Jacques Martin’s teams have typically thrived
with the success of their special teams, and Montreal’s dismal start can
partially be attributed to this failure to convert with the extra man.
Potting a few PP goals would do wonders for morale, and likely provide that
extra push the Habs have been lacking.
Top Players Need to Lead By Example: Few would
have predicted that Travis Moen would lead the Canadiens in goals after 7 games.
But his 4 goals double the output of his closest teammate, and he is outscoring
the likes of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Erik Cole, Andrei Kostitsyn and Mike
Cammalleri (who has played 3 less games). Although Moen’s output is
certainly appreciated, it is the top guns that will need to get going if the
Canadiens are to stand a realistic chance at winning.
Play the Full Game: The only consistent part of
Montreal’s season thus far (save the too many men penalties) has been their
inconsistency. Depending on the period, you may see a completely different
squad than what was seen earlier. Some of this can be attributed to the
Jacques Martin Line-Scrambler™,
but with the exception of the Buffalo game, Montreal has failed to put forth a
60-minute effort. Perhaps a legitimate 4th line will help in this regard,
but the Habs simply aren’t good enough to coast for half of the game and win.
Montreal’s mental strength has been called into question recently, as they seem
unable to hold leads, or rally once down. These abilities were
characteristic of Montreal last season, and attributed greatly to their overall
success. This particular absence has prevented Montreal from gaining or
keeping momentum for too long, and has seemed to be a negative factor in most
games. The Canadiens and coaching staff need to prepare better across all
situations, and ensure that any momentum gained remains in Montreal’s possession
as long as possible. When the opposition pushes back, the Canadiens will
need to push back harder.
Game time is 7:30 EST and the game can been seen on RDS.