The San Jose Sharks road trip through eastern Canada reaches as far east as it will take them tonight when they face the Montreal Canadiens. The match-up features two division leaders: The Habs are atop the Atlantic Division and San Jose is setting the pace in the Pacific. The two teams last met on December 2 when Martin Jones outdueled Carey Price en route to a 2-1 San Jose victory. The San Jose netminder got within 80 seconds of a shutout before rookie Artturi Lehkonen spoiled the clean sheet.
There is good news for San Jose: Logan Couture is expected to play despite a vicious cross-check to the back of the head two nights ago in Ottawa againt the Senators. Mike Hoffman, the perpetrator of the hit, will have his disciplinary phone hearing this Friday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is also expected to be in the line-up, averting a suspension for his pitchfork of Erik Karlsson.
But the good news does not stop there for the Sharks. For the first time, the ninth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Timo Meier, will be on the San Jose Sharks’ line-up card. He’ll skate on the third line with Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, at least to start the game; Head coach Peter DeBoer has used a blender on his bottom-two lines for most of the season.
Meier on the left of Tierney and Donskoi. Looks like Nieto and Ward may be out tonight
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) December 16, 2016
For the Canadiens, dominating play with Carey Price in net has become commonplace. But signing free-agent Alexander Radulov has been on of the best moves the NHL saw this summer. With Montreal’s top center Alex Galchenyuk out, more pressure now falls to the talented Russian and the U.S.-born captain Max Pacioretty to keep the offense chugging along.
Tomas Plekanec will center the top line, but points have been tough to come by for the 34-year-old center. Plekanec had four assists in the 10-1 rout of the Colorado Avalanche but has only nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the other 28 games he’s played. With Galchenyk out, he’ll have to step up his game beyond what he’s shown thus far.
San Jose Sharks at Montreal Canadiens
Bell Centre – 7:30 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – CSN California, Sportsnet, RDS
Radio: Sharks Radio Network, TSN 1200
2016-17 Season Series: 1-0-0
December 2, 2016 – Montreal Canadiens 1 San Jose Sharks 2
San Jose Sharks – 18-11-1 – 37 Points
Road Record: 8-7-1
Hot Players: Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski
Key Injuries: Tomas Hertl
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thronton – Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Kevin Labanc
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Micheal Haley – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Brain
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Martin Jones (Confirmed)
Jones first off for #SJSharks
— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) December 16, 2016
Montreal Canadiens – 19-6-4 – 42 Points
Home Record: 14-1-2
Hot Players: Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell, Carey Price
Key Injuries: David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk, Greg Pateryn, Charles Hudon
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Alexander Radulov
Artturi Lehkonen – Phillip Danault – Andrew Shaw
Paul Byron – Torrey Mitchell – Brendan Gallagher
Daniel Carr – Brian Flynn – Michael McCarron
Alexei Emelin – Shea Weber
Andrei Markov – Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu – Zach Redmond
Carey Price (Confirmed)
Carey Price vs Sharks, Al Montoya vs Capitals #lavoiedubé
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) December 15, 2016
1)No player is hotter for the Sharks than Brent Burns. The big defenseman is leading the team in points (28), goals (13), and the entire NHL in shots on goal (131) in 30 games played. Burns also has seven points in his last six games.
2)Carey Price is once again in fine form. The former Tri-City Americans star sports a .940 save percentage to go with a 1.80 goals against average in 21 games played. He also has a pair of shutouts to his credit in what is turning into another Vezina Trophy-worthy campaign for the 29-year-old goalie.
3)Timo Meier will make his San Jose Sharks debut. In his first professional season, Meier has nine goals and six assists in 17 games. He is the leading goal scorer for the Barracuda and second on the team in penalty minutes.
4)The Sharks will have their work cut out for them as they travel to the Bell Centre. San Jose is 4-11-2-0 all-time when they travel to Montreal.
5)Former San Jose Sharks center Torrey Mitchell is Montreal’s third-line pivot and comes into the contest with two goals and two assists in his last three games.