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Colorado visits the Bell Centre for the first time since they beat the Canadiens in their home opener back in 2009. Colorado won that game 3-2 on the back
of Ryan O’Reilly’s first NHL goal. The Avalanche are off to a great 3-1 start, winning their last 3 games after getting shut out by the arch-rival Red Wings in their home opener. Semyon Varlamov, whom Colorado acquired on July 1st from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 1st and 2nd round draft pick, has proved his worth. Although it’s early, he has earned 2 wins and is top three in save percentage and goals against average.

The Canadiens have had two awful outings in their 3 games this season, most recently on Thursday night against the Calgary Flames in their home opener. The Canadiens looked lethargic, especially their more experienced players. Only one had a reasonable excuse – Hal Gill, who had little chance to sleep due to the birth of his 3rd child. Despite getting a 1-0 lead in the game’s opening minutes, the team was quite undisciplined and listless in all three zones. Mathieu Darche and Brian Gionta combined to take 3 penalties in less than 5 minutes, which cost the Canadiens control of the game and any momentum they had gained by the jacked-up sellout crowd.

This will be Ryan O’Byrne’s first game at the Bell Centre since he was traded to Colorado back in November of last year
in exchange for prospect Michael Bournival. At the time of the trade, the Canadiens were in a position of strength on the back end and wanted to make space for P.K Subban and Yannick Weber in regular roles. Two nights later, things changed big time as Andrei Markov suffered a season ending knee injury. Josh Gorges followed about a month later with a similar injury. This forced the Canadiens to acquire James Wisniewski, Paul Mara and Brent Sopel to patch things for the playoffs. O’Bryne has done well in Colorado: last year, he finished with a career high 10 assists, had a brief stint wearing an “A” on his jersey as an alternate captain and was playing 18-20 minutes a game.

Injury Front

Ryan White recently underwent successful surgery to repair a sports hernia, and Andrei Markov met with doctors in Florida and could return to practice later this month. Lars Eller played his first game on Thursday. Mike Cammalleri (knee laceration), Chris Campoli (leg), and Jaroslav Spacek (upper-body) all remain out. Colorado has two players out with injury: Brandon Yip (arm) and Mark Olver (head); both will miss Saturday’s contest. Peter Mueller, who is under the weather, is expected to
be available to play tonight.

HW Victory Keys

Provide Carey Price with goal support. The Canadiens have only scored 1 goal in two losses this season. All the players are aware they have been hit with the injury bug early, but this should be seen as a chance for many players to step up – proving themselves and earning more ice time.

Utilize players properly. Of course, only Jacques has control of this, but let’s hope we see: 1. Erik Cole play more than 15 minutes for the first time this season, and play with top offensive guys for a whole game, and 2. Keep less skilled forwards in diminished roles, off the top 2 lines, and off the power play.

Keep the big Colorado forwards to the outside. They love to drive the net and with only one forward under 6 feet tall, they are very tough to handle. This is especially the case for the smaller forwards and defencemen on the Canadiens.

Fun Facts

1. In 24 of Carey Price’s 28 losses last season, the Canadiens scored 2 goals or less. 14 times, it was 1 goal or less.

2. Carey Price is 0-2 all time against Colorado.

3. Michael Cammalleri will surely be missed, as he averages almost a point per game against Colorado – 7 goals and 14 assists in 22 games.

4. Semyon Varlamov has never lost to the Canadiens in regulation (3-0-1 all time), including a shutout on December 28th of last year.