Tonight is an exciting game for Habs fans as Thomas Vanek will play his first game with the Montreal Canadiens since being acquired from the New York Islanders. Another player making his Canadiens debut tonight will be defenceman Mike Weaver who should fill in nicely for the recently injured Josh Georges. Montreal is coming off a big shootout win last night over the NHL’s top team the Anaheim Ducks which saw Dustin Tokarski get his first win as a Hab. The team will try to keep things rolling tonight in Phoenix before finishing their 4 game western swing on Saturday in San Jose. Montreal fans should be familiar with some of the Coyotes playing down the middle, as three of them are ex-Habs; Mike Ribeiro, Jeff Halpern and Kyle Chipchura.
The Three Keys to Victory
1) Win the Special Teams Battle. Last night in Anaheim, Montreal gave the Ducks six power play opportunities. They will want to stay out of the box tonight as Phoenix has the NHL’s 10th ranked power play with a potent back end featuring Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandel. Montreal should also look to capitalize on their power play opportunities which should get a boost from the addition of Vanek. Montreal went 0-5 last night in Anaheim and the penalty kill is not one of the Coyotes strengths as they sit 27th in the NHL at 79.5% success rate.
2) Manage Ice Time. Michel Therrien will have to keep an eye on the players minutes in tonight’s game which will be the second of a back to back on the road. With last night going to the shoot out, Plekanec, Subban and Markov all saw over 25 minutes of ice. Hopefully the team can get a boost from Galchenyuk who only saw 15 minutes in last night’s game as well as Mike Weaver, who despite travel has not played since last Sunday.
3) Make the New Guys Feel Welcome. First impressions are always important just as it will be important to make Vanek and Weaver feel welcome and comfortable so the group can gel as best as possible in the short time before the playoffs. It takes time to develop chemistry with line mates and defensive partners so it will be important to keep the game simple tonight.
Article by Simon Aronson