The 2011-12 season finally officially gets underway on Thursday as the Habs
travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. This will mark the eleventh
straight season that Montreal will open up on the road. In their previous
ten, Montreal has five wins, three losses, and a pair of extra time losses.
Injuries will play a big factor in this one as both teams are missing some of
their top players.
For the Habs, Andrei Markov, Lars Eller, and Ryan White will all miss the
game with various ailments. Newly acquired Blair Betts is also day-to-day. Toronto’s key free agent acquisition, Tim
Connolly, was placed on IR early Wednesday and is ineligible to play as is Nazem Kadri who is out for another few weeks.
Clarke MacArthur, who led the Maple Leafs in assists last season, will also miss
the game due to suspension. The projected lines for this contest are:
Plekanec – Kostitsyn
Pacioretty – Gomez – Gionta
Darche – Desharnais – Cole
Moen – Engqvist – Weber
Gill – Subban
Grabovski – Frattin
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Dupuis – Steckel – Armstrong
Rosehill – Lombardi – Brown
Phaneuf – Gunnarsson
HW’s Victory Keys
1) Utilize depth: Even with Montreal missing a few regulars, their
bottom lines (at least on paper) appear to be a lot better than Toronto’s.
In last year’s opener, we saw the bottom trios do some damage, they have a shot
at doing the same here.
2) Hold the fort early: In most home openers, the home team comes out
flying with some extra momentum from the crowd. The Habs will need to be
ready early to counter what should be a strong Toronto attack at the start.
3) Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds: James Reimer struggled a bit in the
preseason and one of his biggest concerns was controlling the puck within the
crease. Montreal’s bigger wingers would be wise to get in front of
Toronto’s ‘tender and see if they can’t make that trend continue.
4) Grind time: The more recent Montreal-Toronto openers have featured
one common element, lots of hits and lots of fights. The Habs don’t
exactly have a lot of ‘grit’ in their lineup but will need to be ready when the
Leafs bring it. Montreal has shown they can take it in the past which is
an encouraging sign that Jacques Martin will have them ready.
5) Get Kostitsyn going: Yes, it’s a little early to single out a
player but I don’t think Kostitsyn will have a particularly long leash on the
top line with Erik Cole waiting in the wings. The Belarusian winger is a
streaky player and will need to get off to a good start relatively quick to hold
down his spot.
The puck drops at 7:00 PM EST and can be seen on CBC and RDS. TSN 990
and FM 98.5 have the game on the radio dial.