Alex Galchenyuk and the Montreal Canadiens (2-2-0) roll into Vancouver to face the Canucks (3-2-0) for some Saturday (late) night hockey at 10 p.m. EST. The match can be watched on CBC and RDS.
The Habs will be without their Captain as Brian Gionta returned home Friday for family reasons. Forward Ryan White will slip back into the lineup with Brandon Prust expected to take Gionta’s spot in the top nine.
The game features a goaltending due between hopeful Team Canada starters Roberto Luongo and Carey Price. With an opportunity to play at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, both netminders aim to impress tonight. They will rely on strong games from their teammates to help secure a victory.
The last time that Price and Luongo faced off in Vancouver was on March 10, 2012. The Canadiens came out on top with a 4-1 victory, with Price making 32 saves. Erik Cole scored twice for the Habs while Blake Geoffrion and P.K. Subban added singles as Luongo allowed four goals on 35 shots. Ryan Kesler was the lone goal-scorer for the Canucks.
Defenseman Alex Edler landed a dangerous his on Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl and has been suspended for three games by the league. Edler’s absence from Vancouver’s top defensive pairing will be noticed.
Montreal’s youth is leading the charge this season. With a goal and six assists through the first four games of the season, 19-year-old Galchenyuk not only tops the Habs for points, but is among the league leaders in the NHL. Lars Eller (2-4-6), Subban, (1-5-6), and Brendan Gallagher (3-2-5) paced the Canadiens offense thus far.
While the kids are finding success, the veterans are struggling. David Desharnais has been facing criticism lately and found himself bumped down to a line with Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta. Desharnais’ new line saw their ice time reduced to third line minutes, a trend likely to continue in Vancouver.
Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu made his season debut in a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. The 20-year-old played 11:48 of reliable hockey and proved he can be counted on in the future. Michael Bournival also suited up as the team’s fourth line center and was in front of the net when Prust scored to put the Habs up 2-1 in the second period. Jarred Tinordi and Ryan White were healthy scratches.
It will be John Tortorella’s first game against the Habs as the Canucks’ head coach. He’s fared better than his predessessor, Alain Vigneault, has had with the New York Rangers (1-3-0). Vancouver is coming off of a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks (4-0-0).
Remember Me? The game marks the first time we’ll see ex-Hab Yannick Weber with his new team. A natural defenseman, Weber has been filling on the Canucks fourth line – a role he filled intermittently with Montreal. With Edler’s suspension, Weber will draw back onto the team’s blueline. Vancouver’s second line also features Chris Higgins, who surpassed 20 goals for the Habs in three straight seasons, but has not reached the mark since.
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
Pacioretty – Eller – Briere
Bourque – Desharnais – Prust
Moen – Bournival – White
D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Santorelli
Hansen – Kesler – Higgins
Booth – Richardson – Kassian
Dalpe – Weise – Sestito
Keys to Victory:
1) Contain the Sedins: To no one’s surprise, the Sedin twins are the leading scorers in Vancouver with six points each. Their success has rubbed off on Santorelli, who has four goals in as many games on the Sedins’ right wing. Containing the Sedins will require a team effort as the Canucks have home ice advantage and last change. Still, expect Therrien to do his best to get Plekanec, the Habs best two-way forward, out as often as possible.
2) Don’t Panic: Therrien juggled his lineup against the Edmonton Oilers, with the top three centers switching lines while Markov and Gorges swapped spots on defense. But it was familiarity that resulted in the Canadiens goals. Gallagher and Galchenyuk connected for a goal each while the untouched fourth line added one as well. Pacioretty’s empty-netter aside, the new line combinations did not solve the problem at heart. Maintaining consistency among the line combinations is in the team’s best interest. It will be interesting to see if Therrien can stick to the arrangement that won in Edmonton.
3) Frustrate Tortorella: Love him or hate him, Vancouver Head Coach John Tortorella is fun to watch. He’s been guilty of letting the game get under his skin. If the Canadiens can get Tortorella off his coaching game early, whether it’s Galchenyuk scoring a Hertl-esque goal or White doing his best Avery impression, it will be in their favour. I mean common, you can even download Tortorella sound bytes to use as your ringtone.