Saku Koivu returns to Montreal (5-4-0) for just the second time since he was left assigned in 2009 and signed with the Ducks (7-2-0) as an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens will try to end their two game losing streak tonight against Anaheim after dropping games against Nashville and Edmonton.
The game marks the last opportunity to see Teemu Selanne play in Montreal, barring the Ducks and Habs meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals. The 43-year-old and future hall of famer made his decision known through this infamous video clip.
The Habs shuffled their defense corps yesterday with the demotion of Jarred Tinordi to Hamilton. Tinordi won a spot in the top six with a strong preseason, but he wasn’t able to match the intensity he showcased during six exhibition games. The demotion will give the hulking blueliner a chance to play top pairing minutes with the Bulldogs in the AHL and rebuild his confidence.
With Tinordi down, the Canadiens called up 23-year-old defender Greg Pateryn. Acquired in the trade that sent Grabovski to Toronto, Pateryn has had a strong start in Hamilton with two goals and four points in five games. There’s a good chance he’ll get an opportunity to dress for the Habs in the next week or so, and as the eldest of Montreal’s defensemen, he may be the best bet to lock down a roster spot until Emelin and Murray return from injuries.
Montreal is coming off a 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. After taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher, the Canadiens blew their lead in a bad second period (more on this in the Keys to Victory). It was a disappointing loss for the Habs, who played a solid first period. Carey Price is expected to start against Anaheim and will hope to rebound after allowing four goals on 32 shots.
Anaheim dropped a 4-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, thanks in part to a Phil Kessel hat-trick. It was only the team’s second loss of the season. Like Montreal, the Ducks took a 2-0 lead before allowing four straight against. Jonas Hiller made 19 saves in the loss while Nick Bonino and Mathieu Perreault both scored their fourth goals of the season.
The Habs schedule this week doesn’t get any easier with the league-leading San Jose Sharks in town Saturday night. Tonight’s match can be seen on RDS and TSN-HABS at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Keys to Victory:
1) Strong Second Period: Montreal has been victimized in the second period so far this season. Their inability to play a full 60 minutes is catching up to them. While they were able to secure a victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets after blowing a 3-0 lead, the Oilers got the best of the Canadiens with a comeback win. For the data to prove the team’s trouble in the second period, I give you Apron Basu’s numbers:
“In 57 games under Therrien, Habs have allowed 68 goals in the second period. They’ve allowed 74 in the first and third periods combined. To put Habs 2nd period issues since start of 2012-13 in perspective, their GAA in 2nd in 57 GP is 3.58. In 1st and 3rd combined, it’s 1.95.” –@ArponBasu
2) Maintain the Lead: In addition to a strong second period, the Habs have to protect their leads. The team is at their best when they maintain their forecheck, force turnovers, and apply pressure from start to finish regardless of the score. It’s absolutely necessary that the Canadiens stick to their game plan and keep their skate on the gas to win. They simply can’t afford to let up – particularly against a talented team like the Anaheim Ducks.
3) Match Anaheim’s Depth: While we’ve already touched on a couple of the familiar players in the Ducks’ lineup, there are some talented albeit lesser known guys among their forward group. Anaheim’s first line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will see their share of ice time, but the Canadiens’ opponents tonight are capable of rolling four lines. This could give Therrien trouble with rookie Patrick Holland and plugger Mike Blunden flanking Ryan White on the Habs’ own fourth line. With Blunden and Holland only playing under seven minutes on Tuesday, Montreal may again depend heavily on their top three lines.
Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
Bournival – Plekanec – Gionta
Bourque – Desharnais – Moen
Blunden – White – Holland
Palmieri – Getzlaf – Perry
Etem – Perreault – Selanne
Cogliano – Koivu – Silfverberg
Maroon – Bonino – Winnik