The Montreal Canadiens take their Eastern Conference leading show on the road tonight as they prepare to battle the San Jose Sharks. This will be the first time the two teams have met since January 14, 2006. That night saw the Habs cruise to an easy 6-2 victory in Montreal. The Tricolore have an all time 12-6-4 record against the Sharks with 1 Overtime loss. This game kicks off the first game of an important four game western road trip for the Habs.
San Jose is coming off a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night to mark their fifth consecutive win. The Sharks come into Monday night’s game sitting in third place in the Pacific division behind Dallas and Anaheim, and fifth in the Western Conference. Montreal will have to try and shut down Joe Thornton who is the obvious big threat for the Sharks with 74 points on the season. In goal Nabokov has started all but three games for San Jose this season and has an impressive 35 wins to show for it. Another player to keep an eye on is Joe Pavelski who has racked up three goals and an assist in his last three games.
The Canadiens took over first place in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night with a huge win over the New Jersey Devils. The game ended 2-1 with Andrei Kostitsyn scoring the game-winning goal in the third period and Carey Price playing another solid game since the Huet trade last Tuesday. Since Price has been named the starter for Montreal he is 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a save percentage of .956. This road trip will be a solid test for the William’s Lake, BC native as well as the entire team.
There does not appear to be any major lineup moves for the Canadiens, and look for a very similar starting lineup that took on the Devil’s Saturday night. Steve Begin looks to be a game time decision again as he is struggling with a groin injury. As for the Sharks, Curtis Brown and Ryane Clowe remain on the IR list and Kyle McLaren is listed as day to day with a knee injury. On a side note, this will mark the first time Montreal plays against their old teammate Craig Rivet who left the Habs at the trade deadline last season.
Keys to victory: The Habs league best powerplay will have to continue to roll and tonight it will not be easy. San Jose has the second best penalty killing unit in the league. This four game road trip will not only be a big mental test for the team but also physical. The Habs are going to be going up against some physically big teams in the west; Montreal will have to try and play tough hockey and counter the size with speed. Players with size on the Habs such as Latendresse will have up their physical play. The Mike Komisarek, Joe Thornton match up will also be crucial for success tonight. If Komisarek can shut down Big Joe then it will allow the Canadiens to spend more time in the offensive zone.
The game time is 10:30pm and can be seen on RDS and FSN-BA for people in California or those who subscribe to the NHL Center Ice package. The game can also be heard as always on CJAD and CKAC.