The San Jose Sharks (8-1-1) are the toughest challenge Montreal (6-4-0) will in the first leg of the season. The Habs will need a full team effort to defeat the Sharks who have out-shot and out-scored opponents by wide margins. The game can be watched on CBC and RDS at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Montreal defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Tuesday in Saku Koivu’s return to the city. Carey Price was solid in goal and stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced. Tomas Plekanec led the way offensively with a goal and two assists, while rookie Michael Bournival continues to prove he’s an NHLer with a goal and assist of his own. Gionta and Bourque also scored for Montreal in the win.
San Jose’s only regulation loss has come against the Boston Bruins. A win tonight would allow the Sharks to reclaim top spot in league after falling into second place after a Colorado Avalanche win last night.
Both teams are on the limp. While George Parros (concussion) and Douglas Murray (upper-body) have started to take part in the Canadiens’ practices, it’s unlikely either will play until next week. Pacioretty, Prust, and Briere remain out for the foreseeable future. The Sharks have had their share of injury woes as Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres, and Adam Burrish are expected to sit out.
Keys to Victory:
1) Survive the Onslaught: San Jose has been imposing their will on opponents. They average 38.8 shots per game, best in the NHL. Montreal hasn’t fared too badly themselves in this department and are eighth place in the league with 31.2 shots per game. The Sharks define their dominance with a strong puck possession game that limits their opponents shooting, and thus scoring, opportunities. They trail only the Minnesota Wild in shots against per game (23.2). Needless to, Carey Price will need to be on top of his game tonight.
2) Contribution from the EGG line: The kids started the year on the right note, but their production has dipped as of late. While Brendan Gallagher’s willingness to go hard to the net has rewarded him with goals, Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk are due. With San Jose’s scoring depth well balanced through their top nine, Montreal will have to find a way to match. It’s not unrealistic to suggest that the Habs will need at least a goal from each one of their lines tonight.
3) Protect Price: Not only will Price face a ton of shots tonight, barring a shot-blocking marathon; he’ll do so with a number of white and teal sweaters in front of him. The Sharks do a good job of screening the net, so the Habs defense will need a herculean effort to clear crease of imposing forwards. The likes of Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray will be missed tonight. The latter of which surely would have enjoyed the opportunity to face his old teammates.
Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
Bournival – Plekanec – Gionta
Bourque – Desharnais – Moen
Blunden – White – Holland
Hertl – Thornton – Hamilton
Marleau – Couture – Kennedy
Nieto – Pavelski – Wingels
McCarthy – Desjardins – Brown