The pizza man is back!
Former Montreal Canadiens centreman Phillip Danault will face his former team for the first time this afternoon. He and the Los Angeles Kings welcome the Habs to Staples Center for an early puck drop at 4 p.m. EST.
The Montreal Canadiens took a big step towards salvaging their four-game Western road swing with a 4-0 shutout win over the San Jose Sharks. Goaltender Jake Allen was forced to be fantastic as the Habs continue to deal with underlying defensive issues. But offensively the club got it right, scoring more than one goal for just the second time this season.
“Was it perfect? It was not perfect,” acknowledged head coach Dominique Ducharme after the team’s first win in the Shark Tank in 22 years. “But I liked the essence of that game. Now we can look and make certain little things (sic) better in every area. Being consistent, that’s how you get confidence and that’s how you build your game.”
A first time for everything
Speaking of confidence, several Montreal Canadiens players finally got some firsts off their backs seven games into the season. Centreman Nick Suzuki picked up his first two points of the season while Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson scored their first goals of the year. Alexander Romanov also scored just the second goal of his NHL career and played his best game of the year so far against the Sharks while falling an assist short of the Gordie Howe hat-trick. He also earned some praise from his head coach post-game.
“I liked his game,” said Ducharme in French to reporters. “He was intense in every one of his battles. He got in there and was physical. As far as the details he had a good stick, his gap against the opposing forwards was good. 98 percent of his decisions with the puck were good, he kept things simple. I like the direction his game is going in.”
Confidence may be high for several individual players but collective consistency has been the Achilles heel of the Montreal Canadiens so far this season. The team are 2-6 on the season for a reason and the last time they won big at home against Detroit, the Habs followed that performance up with their worst game of the year against Seattle.
Jake Allen is expected to get the start in goal this afternoon after his scintillating 45 save performance in San Jose. Samuel Montembeault is expected to play the second of a back-to-back tomorrow afternoon against the Anaheim Ducks.
Here are your expected lines for the Montreal Canadiens against the Los Angeles Kings this afternoon per Puckpedia
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Hoffman – Suzuki – Gallagher
Toffoli – Perrault – Caufield
Lehkonen – Paquette – Armia
Chiarot – Petry
Romanov – Savard
Niku – Kulak
Injury Report: C Jake Evans will miss his third straight game with an undisclosed injury
A baby and the one who got away!
The story surrounding the game is former Montreal Canadiens centreman Phillip Danault playing his former team as a member of the Kings. After being an integral cog in the Habs machine that made their way to the Stanley Cup Final, he was allowed to join Los Angeles as a free agent.
“(The Canadiens) made me an offer, we made a counter offer and we didn’t come back to it,” Danault told reporters in French yesterday about his decision to sign a six-year, $33 million dollar deal with the Kings. “That made it clear to me and my agent Don Meehan, he isn’t dumb he’s been doing this a long time… I just had a feeling that they wanted to turn things over to the youth on the team and that’s fine as well. I didn’t have a problem with that but I wanted to finish my season with pride.”
So much for best laid plans. The Carolina Hurricanes played disruptors-in-chief to the notion of turning the centre ice position over to Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. After Kotkaniemi was allowed to walk after the Canes signed him to a one-year, $6.1 million dollar offer sheet, there has been a gaping hole in the middle-six of the Montreal Canadiens lineup. Mathieu Perreault is currently deputizing in a stop-gap role where Danault could and probably should be on the team.
Speaking of best laid plans, Danault revealed to reporters yesterday that he and his wife are expecting their second child, a little girl. The Victoriaville native was also in a bit of an oversharing mood with reporters. He divulged that she was conceived on St-Jean Baptiste Day, June 24th. Just a few hours after Danault’s pass to Artturi Lehkonen in overtime eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games and sent the Habs to their first Cup Final in 28 years.
As for Danault an his new team, things aren’t great right now for the rebuilding club. Danault has spent time bouncing between the second and third lines for Los Angeles and has a goal and assist in seven games. The Kings are 1-5-1 on the season and just lost star defenceman Drew Doughty to a knee contusion for the next six to eight weeks. Doughty was the second-leading point-getter on the team with seven, trailing only Anze Kopitar who leads the club with nine points.
Statistically, two things stand out for Los Angeles compared to the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings are one of only four teams in the NHL who have a worse penalty-killing percentage than the Habs at 61.9 percent. L.A also allow the fifth most goals per game in the league.
Here’s how the Los Angeles Kings are expected to lineup against the Montreal Canadiens per Puckpedia
Arvidsson – Kopitar – Brown
Kempe – Danault – Iafallo
Moore – Kupali – Kaliyev
Grundtsrom – Lizotte – Vilardi
Bjornfot – Anderson
Clague – Roy
Edler – Strand
Injury Report: C Lias Andersson, groin (day-to-day). LW Andreas Athanasiou, undisclosed (day-to-day). C Quinton Byfield, ankle (week-to-week). D Drew Doughty, knee (6-8 weeks). D Sean Walker, knee (season-ending IR).
- Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman is riding a three-game goal scoring streak. He is two points away from 400 in his NHL career.
- Milestones galore – Several Kings have a chance to make some personal history tonight. Dustin Brown is two goals away from tying Bobby Carpenter for 20th in all-time goals by American-born players. Phillip Danault will play his 400th NHL game against his former team. Alexander Edler is one goal away from 100 in his career. Anze Kopitar is one power-play goal away from 100 for his career.
- Tyler Toffoli will face the team he won two Stanley Cups with for the first time as a Hab
- It is the 149th all-time meeting between the Canadiens and Kings. The Habs have a winning record of 93-34-20-1.