Montreal Canadiens fans packed the streets of Avenue des Canadiens, huddled together in basements and crouched around the radio during the Habs run to the Stanley Cup final just a few months ago. Tonight, for the first time in 585 days, more than 21,000 of those fans will be in the Bell Centre for what is certainly set to be a special atmosphere in the home opener against the New York Rangers.
Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme didn’t like what he saw from his team after one period against the Buffalo Sabres as he shuffled his lines. It didn’t do all that much to help as the Habs were spanked 5-1 in embarrassing fashion at KeyBank Center.
“Anytime you lose 5-1, it’s a punch in the stomach,” said defenceman Ben Chiarot yesterday after he struggled mightily against the Sabres. “It’s a wake up to all of us that we’ve got a lot of room to improve and I think that’s how we’re taking it. We’ll keep building here and get the ship going in the right direction.”
Chiarot was one of the few whose line or pairing remained untouched at practice this morning in Brossard. Ducharme tweaked several of his forward lines, firstly moving Joel Armia up on the left of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Tyler Toffoli was dropped down to the third line next to Jake Evans and Brendan Gallagher. Artturi Lehkonen and Mathieu Perreault swapped sides on the wing with Cedric Paquette remaining in between them on the fourth line.
On the blueline, Alexander Romanov was back on the left of Jeff Petry. He played there the majority of training camp and the pre-season. David Savard and Chiarot remained untouched as the second defensive pairing while Brett Kulak found himself on the left of Chris Wideman. Jake Allen, after an impressive debut in a losing effort to Toronto, will get the start in goal.
Here are your Montreal Canadiens lines tonight against the New York Rangers
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Armia – Suzuki – Caufield
Toffoli – Evans – Gallagher
Perreault – Paquette – Lehkonen
Romanov – Petry
Kulak – Wideman
There was an injury update this morning as forward Mike Hoffman was on the ice with his new teammates at the morning skate. Ducharme said that Hoffman could return either Tuesday against the Sharks or Thursday against the Hurricanes for Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s return to the Bell Centre. He missed all of training camp and pre-season with a lower body injury.
On the other side, the New York Rangers are in a similar boat to the Montreal Canadiens, starting the season with back-to-back losses against the Capitals and in overtime against the Stars.
The Blueshirts were down 2-0 to Dallas but fought their way back to earn a point on Thursday night. Something that pleased new head coach Gerard Gallant.
“They scored that second goal and you’re saying, here we go again,” Gallant told reports post-game. “But no, we bounced back. I knew we weren’t going to collapse tonight in front of our fans in the building and they came back hard. We got our noses dirty a little bit in the offensive zone, did some good things and got back in the hockey game.”
The quote of the night though went to a man who will certainly be a target of the boo-birds at the Bell Centre tonight, forward Chris Kreider. After a lengthy question by a reporter asking how much of a grace period the team would need to adjust to Gallant’s style, Kreider deapanned “Two games.”
St-Eustache native Alexis Lafreniere will play for the first time at the Bell Centre, the arena where he was supposed to be drafted first overall in 2020. The former Rimouski Oceanic star had a tough start to his rookie year in the pandemic shortened season but finished strongly, ending the year 12 goals and nine assists in 56 games. He’ll play on the left of Mika Zibanejad and Ktreider tonight
The Habs better be ready for a battle tonight with both teams looking for their first wins early in the season.
Here are your projected New York Rangers lines tonight per Puckpedia
Lafreniere – Zibanejad – Kreider
Panarin – Strome – Kakko
Goodrow – Chytil – Gauthier
Hunt – Rooney – Reaves
Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Nemeth – Lundqvist
In injury news for the Rangers, Montmagny native Samuel Blais will miss his chance to play in his home province. He’s dealing with a lower-body injury.
- It is the 633rd regular season meeting between these two Original Six franchises. The Montreal Canadiens have a winning record of 340-195-34-3
- Habs forward Brendan Gallagher will play his 585th game for the club, tying Donnie Marshall for 42nd all-time
- The Rangers top point-getter against the Montreal Canadiens is centreman Mika Zibanejad, fresh off a new eight year, $68 million dollar contract that kicks in next season. Zibanejad has 9 goals and 6 assists in 27 games versus the Habs.
- New York are kicking off their second-longest road trip of the season tonight in Montreal. They next play the Leafs, Predators and Senators.
- The Canadiens kick off a four-game home stand tonight. They next face the Sharks, Hurricanes and Red Wings.
- New York forward Chris Keider is two points away from 350 for his career
- KEEP YOUR HEAD UP! Through two games, the Rangers have the second most hits in the league with 59.
- New York have the third youngest roster in the league with an average age of 26.05 years old. Only the Devils (25.74) and the Blue Jackets (25.71) are younger.
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How to listen: TSN 690
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