The Montreal Canadiens have come off a successful week with two wins (against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals) and an overtime loss (to the New Jersey Devils), picking up five of a possible six points. In the week ahead, they have three games, all against Eastern Conference rivals, all with losing records. Will the Habs be able to capitalize on this opportunity? Let’s take a closer look at what this week has in store.
The Canadiens are enjoying their winning record (11-5-4) and they are in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division. This week’s challenge will be to fill the gaps left by injuries to two key forwards, Paul Byron and Jonathan Drouin. Both suffered injuries in Friday night’s win against the Captials. Drouin underwent wrist surgery on Monday and Byron is scheduled for knee surgery on Tuesday. They are both out indefinitely.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be back in the lineup for his second game after returning against the Devils on Saturday with a time-on-ice (TOI) of 9:00. Look for him to see more ice time this week on a regular shift, centering the third line between Artturi Lehkonen and Jordan Weal. Charles Hudon has been recalled from the Laval Rocket and will be traveling with the team to Columbus.
The Canadiens will be without Byron (knee) and Drouin (wrist) indefinitely as both have been placed on the injured reserve.
“Obviously, he’s one of our best players,” Canadiens forward Max Domi said of Drouin. “To be missing him now, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Other guys are going to have to step up. We all know we have the character in here for guys to step up. When someone goes down, it gives the opportunity for someone else. When you have the depth we have, it’s a good opportunity for guys to prove some stuff here.”
Tomas Tatar has been red hot for the Habs with two goals and four assists in the last three games. His line will be one to watch as head coach Claude Julien has him lined up with Philip Danault and Brendan Gallagher.
The penalty kill. The Canadiens’ 71.9 penalty-kill percentage ranks 30th in the league. They need to find a way to play better short-handed. Period.
Tuesday Night vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Blue Jackets (7-8-4) 7th place, Metropolitan Division
This will be the second meeting between the teams in the last week as the Canadiens hit the road. They beat the Blue Jackets 3-2 in a shootout at the Bell Centre last Tuesday night but haven’t fared well at the Nationwide Arena in Ohio. The Habs are 1-5-0 in their last six trips to Columbus.
Carey Price (10-4-2) 2.61 goals-against average (GAA), .917 save percentage (SV%)
Joonas Korpisalo (7-7-1) 3.04 GAA, .897 SV%
The Habs will be looking to silence the cannon (which is fired off with each Blue Jackets goal) in Columbus. They will need their new lines to come together quickly and will be hoping for a new hero to pick up where Drouin left off. Coming off a three-day break, Columbus will be looking to avenge their loss from last week and will try to feed off their big overtime win against the St. Louis Blues last Friday night.
Wednesday Night vs. Ottawa Senators
Senators (8-11-1) 7th place, Atlantic Division
This will be the first meeting of the provincial neighbours as the Senators travel down the Ottawa River to the Bell Centre. The Canadiens will welcome the Senators with open arms – they have had great success against their rivals from Ottawa with a 9-2-1 record in their last 12 meetings.
Keith Kinkaid (1-1-2) 4.23 GAA, .887 SV%
Craig Anderson (3-7-0) 3.31 GAA, .894 SV%
Ottawa has won two of their last three outings and have a spark back in their game after their slow start. Both teams will be playing in their second game of back-to-back matches on Wednesday night. The Canadiens have had four back-to-back sets already this season with a 1-2-1 record in the second game; the Senators have played back-to-back games twice this season and have yet to record a win in the second game. This will be Montreal’s first of a five-game home stand.
Saturday Night vs. New York Rangers
Rangers (8-8-2) 6th place, Metropolitan Division
The Canadiens have won seven of the last nine meetings with the Rangers and have played .500 or better against this Conference rival each season since 2007-08.
Price (10-4-2) 2.61 GAA, .917 SV%
Alexandar Georgiev (4-4-1) 3.22 GAA, .906 SV%
The Canadiens will play the Rangers in the second of five consecutive games at the Bell Centre. They will have two days off prior to playing New York to re-evaluate lines and rest any minor aches and injuries. The Rangers will arrive in Montreal for their second game in two nights, having played the Senators on Friday.
The Week Ahead
The Canadiens have a chance to gain ground this week, not only playing teams that are beatable but also teams that they play well against. Will they be able to overcome injuries to capitalize on this opportunity? They will need their big players to be even bigger and will be counting on players like Ben Chiarot, Gallagher, Domi, and Shea Weber to lead by example, (from ‘Stu Cowan: Shea Weber making Canadiens fans forget about P.K. Subban,’ Montreal Gazette, 11/14/2019). Montreal is riding a six-game point streak and will want to continue their winning ways as they look to realistically add six points to the tally this week.