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Preview: Toronto (6-12-7) at Montreal

The Montreal Canadiens will seek to maintain
their dominance over their divisional rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, tonight at the Bell
Centre.  The two teams have played each other twice this season, with
Montreal emerging the victor in both instances.  Both games required extra
time as Montreal won 5-4 in a shootout on Halloween and 4-3 in OT on the
October 1st season opener. 
The Maple Leafs were shutout by the Buffalo Sabres last night, 3-0, and are
3-5-2 in their last 10 games.  The Habs haven’t played since their 4-3
shootout loss to Washington on Saturday, and are 4-4-2 over the same span of games.

Brian Burke’s off-season acquisition, Jonas
(5-5-5, 3.22 GAA, .898 SV%) will likely start in net for Toronto tonight, despite
starting last night against Buffalo.  Toronto’s veteran goaltender, Vesa Toskala (1-4-2,
3.91 GAA, .865 SV%) is currently sidelined with a sore groin, and Joey MacDonald
(0-3-0, 3.35 GAA, .975 SV%) remains winless on the season.  Carey
Price (7-9-2, 2.85 GAA, .909 SV%) has started the past 8 games, so Jaroslav Halak (5-3-0, 2.62 GAA, .904 SV%)
may get the nod in net. Price’s play has slightly declined of late, but he has
gone 2-1-2 over the
last five games, with a 2.86 GAA and .917 SV%.

Tomas Plekanec continues to lead the Canadiens in scoring through
the first 26 games with 25 points (6G, 19A) and has 11 points in his last 8
games.  He is
followed closely in points by the Habs’ leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri (12G,
10A).  The Leafs are led by all-star defenseman Tomas Kaberle (2G,
23A) who is tied for 1st among all the NHL’s defenders with
Washington’s Mike Green.  Niklas Hagman (13G, 4A) leads the Leafs in
goals, but will likely be surpassed by Phil Kessel (8G, 3A) who has only played
in 13 games after recovering from off-season surgery.
The Canadiens continue to struggle putting the puck in the net and sit 27th in
the league with 2.38 goals per game; the Maple Leafs maintain an average
of 2.64 goals per game, good for 20th in the NHL.  Toronto ranks 30th in goals
allowed (3.60 goals per game) while Montreal checks in at 20th in the league (2.85 goals against per game).

Despite their other failings, the Maple Leafs employ a decent
powerplay that features a 22.0%
conversion rate (8th in the NHL), while Montreal continues to struggle with the
man advantage (17.5%, 23rd in the NHL).  Furthermore, Montreal remains
dead-last in the league for powerplay opportunities.  Toronto’s alleged
truculence has been their downfall, as they are horrible on the penalty-kill
with only 73.5% of their penalties killed (30th). Montreal has a slightly
better rate of 79.3% (18th).

Andrei Markov (ankle), Brian Gionta (foot),
Andrei Kostitsyn (foot),
Benoit Pouliot (upper body) and Hal Gill (foot) are all
out with injuries while Georges Laraque will continue his 5-game
suspension for his knee-on-knee hit on Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall.  Scott
Gomez (groin) and Matt D’Agostini (concussion/knee) will look to draw back into
the lineup after missing several games, and James T. Wyman was returned to
Hamilton as a result.  Toronto is expected to be missing Toskala (groin),
Mike Van Ryn (knee), John Mitchell (knee), Carl Gunnarsson (arm) and Jeff Finger (lower body). 
Ex-Hab Mike Komisarek returned to action last night after missing time with a
torn quadriceps muscle.

Monday’s practice featured the following lines:

  • Mike Cammalleri – Tomas Plekanec – Sergei
  • Travis Moen- Scott Gomez – Max Pacioretty
  • Kyle Chipchura – Glen Metropolit – Matt
  • Tom Pyatt – Maxim Lapierre – Ryan White

The puck drops at 7:30 and can be seen on TSN
and RDS.

This preview was written by Matt