Montreal Canadiens fans will be forced to reflect on their past and deal with their present when the Los Angeles Kings roll into the Bell Centre tonight.
Songs have been sung about it. Poems have been written.
The Montreal Canadiens miss Phillip Danault. And the players that have been brought in to replace him have struggled so far to put it mildly.
When they’ve been in the lineup.
With the Habs already without Mathieu Perreault due to an eye injury, the team could be down to their bare bones up the middle tonight. Jonathan Drouin will miss his third straight game with a head injury after playing centre for less than three minutes against Detroit a week ago.
Now the team could be without Danault’s replacement Christian Dvorak. The centreman missed practice yesterday due to an undisclosed injury. He did skate this morning in Brossard but he is a game-time decision said head coach Dominique Ducharme after practice. Despite starting the season well, Dvorak hasn’t been great lately. He has two assists in his last seven games and his minus -13 is tied for second worst in the league.
If you’re counting at home, that means the three players the club have tried to fill the Danault-sized hole in the team could all be out of action for his return home tonight.
The hockey gods have an impeccable sense of timing.
On top of all that, the Montreal Canadiens most consistent forward Josh Anderson will be a game-time decision with a non-COVID related illness. Not ideal for a 3-10 team taking on one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment.
“They play a patient game,” said Ducharme about the Kings this morning. “They’ve got some good speed up front… they want to counter quick. They want to make you lose patience. Make mistakes, turnovers and they counter quick. They’ve been successful (with) that.”
The Canadiens did not call-up a forward from the Rocket today so expect one of Dvorak or Anderson to play. Jake Allen gets the start in goal tonight.
Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens are expected to line-up against the Los Angeles Kings tonight.
Hoffman – Suzuki – Toffoli
Armia – Dvorak – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Evans – Belzile
Paquette – Brooks – Pezzetta
Chiarot – Petry
Kulak – Savard
Romanov – Wideman
The Los Angeles Kings are red hot. While Danault is playing like the ex who went to the gym for six months to perfect that post break-up revenge body.
The former Habs pizza man would be the second-leading scorer on the Montreal Canadiens at the moment. His three-point outing against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night gave him eight on the season. Surely more important to Danault though was the result as the Kings beat up the Buds 5-1.
L.A. are undefeated since handing the Habs their lunch money 10 days ago by a score of 5-2. Their record of 5-0-0 is the longest active streak in the league. Anze Kopitar leads the team with 15 points while surprising forward Alex Iafallo has broken out early for 12 points of his own.
Danault follows up the pair, third on the team in points. The Canadiens clearly miss him in a broad context of leadership, reliability and matchup deployment. But his absence has been felt specifically in the faceoff dot. The Kings have the sixth highest faceoff win percentage in the league while the Habs are languishing, as they are in most statistical categories, right down near the bottom. In this case, second worst at 45.6%.
Not to mention defensively. The Kings have always been a stingy team under head coach Todd McLellan. So the team being in the top third of the league in goals against per game isn’t all that surprising. Without Danault, the Montreal Canadiens are allowing the 4th most goals against per game.
Sure, there’s been no Weber or no Price. But the way Danault shut down the Maple Leafs big guns last night was a reminder of just how good he was against them and seemingly everyone else as a member of the Habs just six months ago.
Here’s how the Los Angeles Kings are expected to line-up in the second of a back-to-back against the Montreal Canadiens tonight per Puckpedia
Kempe – Kopitar – Brown
Iafallo – Danault – Athanasiou
Grundtsrom – Kupari – Moore
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev
Edler – Clague
Maata – Roy
Bjomfot – Anderson
- Brendan Gallagher remains one point behind J.C Tremblay for 39th-most in franchise history (363). He is also still two goals away from tying his jersey-sake Saku Koivu for 27th-most in club history (191)
- Jeff Petry is three points away from hitting 300 for his career
- Kings defenceman Alex Edler is one goal away from 100 for his career
- With a power-play goal, Anze Kopitar would pass Bernie Nichols for fifth all-time in franchise history (100)