The Montreal Canadiens will seek to regain their winning ways as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at the Bell Centre. The two teams play each other only once this season, and met just once last year, with the Blue Jackets winning 4-3 in a shootout at home. The Blue Jackets were crushed by the New York Rangers last night, 7-4, and are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Montreal hasn’t played since their 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit on Saturday, and are 5-4-1 over the same span of games.
It is reported that former Hab, Mathieu Garon, (4-2-0, 2.72 GAA, .913 SV%) will start in net for Columbus tonight, despite seeing some ice-time last night against New York. Last year’s rookie of the year, Steve Mason, (8-5-3, 3.59 GAA, .885 SV%) was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 18 shots, but Garon didn’t fare much better and allowed 3 goals on 15 shots in relief. With upcoming back-to-back games, it’s assumed that Carey Price (6-8-1, 2.84 GAA, .911 SV%) and Jaroslav Halak (5-3-0, 2.62 GAA, .904 SV%) will split the starts over the next 2 nights. Price has started the last five games, is 3-1-1 over that stretch with a 2.00 GAA and .943 SV%, and is reportedly starting in goal tonight.
Tomas Plekanec leads the Canadiens in scoring through the first 23 games with 22 points (5G, 17A) and is riding a 3-game point streak. He is followed closely in points by the Habs’ leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri (11G, 9A). The Blue Jackets are led by perennial scoring threat Rick Nash (14G, 11A) who sits 8th and 12th in the NHL in goals and points respectively. The Canadiens continue to struggle putting the puck in the net and sit 28th in the league with 2.30 goals per game, while the Blue Jackets maintain an average of 3.04, good for 9th in the NHL. Conversely, Columbus ranks 28th in goals allowed (3.46 goals per game) while Montreal has improved lately, and now ranks 16th in the league (2.83 goals against per game).
After years of failing miserably with the man advantage, Columbus has finally iced an excellent powerplay squad that boasts a 25% conversion rate (3rd in the NHL), trailing only Philadelphia and San Jose in that department. Montreal can make no such claims as they sit 25th in the league with a 16.7% conversion rate with the extra man. Perhaps even more disturbing than the lack of production is the lack of powerplay opportunities, as Montreal is dead-last in the NHL in penalties drawn. Columbus and Montreal fare about the same on the penalty-kill, with Montreal employing a slightly better average of 80.4% (16th) to Columbus’ 78.6% (20th).
Andrei Markov (ankle), Brian Gionta (foot), Scott Gomez (lower body), Jaroslav Spacek (lower body), Matt D’Agostini (concussion), Benoit Pouliot (upper body) and Hal Gill (foot) are all out with injuries while Georges Laraque will serve the first game of his 5-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit on Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall. Columbus will ice a healthier squad with only Fredrik Modin (knee), Andrew Murray (shoulder) and Derek Dorsett (head) unable to play. In the wake of Laraque’s suspension, injuries and the trade of Guillaume Latendresse, the petulant Sergei Kostitsyn has been recalled along with J.T. Wyman from Hamilton to play their first NHL games of this season. Josh Gorges is expected to play on the first defensive pairing with Roman Hamrlik, while Paul Mara will play with Marc-André Bergeron and Ryan O’Byrne will play alongside Jay Leach. The Canadiens play in Pittsburgh tomorrow night.
The puck drops at 7:30 and can be seen on TSN and RDS.