The Montreal Canadiens are counting on the kids. The Habs will have five players aged 22 and younger in the lineup tonight against Sidney Crosby and the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins.
The team called up Cole Caufield from the Laval Rocket this afternoon with Alex Belzile going to the AHL. He put up five points in six games with the Rocket.
It will be interesting to see where head coach Dominique Ducharme decides to play Caufield tonight. Will he reunite the Wisconsin native back with Nick Suzuki? Or will he skate next to Ryan Poehling like he did in Laval for a couple of games?
Mattias Norlinder will make his NHL debut next to David Savard on the blueline. Alexander Romanov will be paired with Brett Kulak with Kulak set to play on the right side.
Finally, the last sub-23-year old playing for the Montreal Canadiens tonight will be goaltender Cayden Primeau getting his second consecutive start. Ducharme confirmed after the morning skate that Jake Allen is on track to return from his concussion by this weekend. But after an impressive 29-save performance in the team’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday, Primeau is preferred to Samuel Montembeault tonight.
“I really like the way he handled himself in the net,” Ducharme told reporters in French about Primeau’s game. “He was good. Not just in making big saves but in general the way he managed the game. Speaking to (goaltending coach) Eric (Raymond), we liked what we saw. So we’re giving him another game.”
Ducharme also said that he expects centreman Crhsitian Dvorak to play. He is a game-time decision with an undisclosed injury.
Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens are expected to line up against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the Bell Centre
Tyler Toffoli – Nick Suzuki – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin – Christian Dvorak – Josh Anderson
Artturi Lehkonen – Jake Evans – Joel Armia
Michael Pezzetta – Ryan Poehling – Cole Caufield
Ben Chiarot – Jeff Petry
Mattias Norlinder – David Savard
Alexander Romanov – Brett Kulak
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been ravaged by COVID throughout the season. Nearly everyone on the Pens roster, including the coaching staff, have been forced to isolate at various times after testing positive for the virus.
Is that the reason why Pittsburgh have gone 2-6-2 over their last ten games? It certainly doesn’t help.
One thing that does is the return of Sidney Crosby.
After undergoing wrist surgery in September, Crosby returned to the ice on Oct. 30th against the Devils. But he was forced to miss the next five games after entering the league’s COVID protocol on Nov. 3rd.
Through three games, Crosby has only registered one assist. But everyone knows how much he loves to play against the team he grew up cheering for. The Cole Harbour native has 52 points in 40 career games against the Canadiens.
“It’s definitely challenging,” said Nick Suzuki about facing Crosby for the first time since the Habs centreman’s coming out party in the 2020 playoff bubble. “He’s a different player to some of the other superstars around the league. Controls the puck so well, such a smart player. Uses his linemates, gets to the net. So you really need to box out, know where he is at all times…I think you can expect him to play really well. Obviously he’s played well in the Bell Centre before.”
Pittsburgh are in a hole to start the year. Their record of 5-6-4 has them second-to-last in the Metropolitan Division. With Crosby back, the team knows they need to start picking up points now. Especially with American Thanksgiving just over a week away.
“I think we know the situation,” Crosby said after the Pens 2-1 loss to Buffalo on Tuesday. “I think we feel like we’ve got to find some desperation and some urgency here, just being where we are, the situation that we’re in. We’ve been fighting, really, since Game 1 with whether it be injuries or the virus.”
Except for Evgeni Malkin, who’s expected back sometime in December after undergoing knee surgery in June, the Penguins are healthy for truly the first time this season.
Tristan Jarry will get the start in goal for Mike Sullivan’s men.
Here’s how the Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to line up tonight against the Montreal Canadiens per Puckpedia
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker – Jeff Carter – Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese – Teddy Blueger – Brock McGinn
Danton Heinen – Evan Rodrigues – Dominic Simon
Brian Dumoulin – Kristopher Letang
Marcus Petersson – John Marino
Mike Matheson – Chad Ruhwedel
- Brendan Gallagher will play his 600th NHL game tonight
- The Canadiens are near the top of the league in two statistical categories: First in hits with 479. Second in penalty minutes with 186.
- Jonathan Drouin is nearly a point-a-game player against Pittsburgh. He has 10 points in 13 games played versus the Penguins.
- The Pens are 10-3-1 in their last 14 games against the Montreal Canadiens, picking up points in nine of their last 11 games.
- At the Bell Centre, Pittsburgh have a record of 4-0-1 their last five games and 7-1-1 in their last nine.
- Montreal native Kris Letang is also a Habs killer. He has 28 points in 35 games against his hometown team.