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Gameday 26 – Canadiens @ Predators – Clague claimed – Hoffman, Norlinder in – Lines, Notes

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You know Jeff Gorton is a different cat to Marc Bergevin based on his first waiver pick-up for the Montreal Canadiens.

His first move as the de-facto GM of the team? A puck-moving, offensive-minded defenceman.

The Habs claimed defenceman Kale Clague from the Los Angeles Kings this afternoon ahead of their game against the Nashville Predators tonight.

Clague was a second-round pick, 51st overall, in 2016. The Regina, Saskatchewan native played four seasons in the WHL primarily with the Brandon Wheat Kings, splitting his final season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. The 6 foot, 190 pound left-shooting defenceman played at two World Junior Hockey tournaments for Canada, putting up 8 points in 13 games.

Clague’s pro career has been stop-start up until this point due to the pandemic. He was an AHL All-Star in 2020, finishing second amongst defenceman in points with 25 points in 49 games on the the Kings affiliate, the Ontario Reign.

The earliest Clague could join the Habs is Tuesday in a rematch of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But his presence could be a kick in the behind for another young defenceman trying to make his mark in the NHL.

Norlinder, Hoffman in

Mattias Norlinder will be back in the lineup tonight on the blueline after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Avalanche. Norlinder has been used sparingly by head coach Dominique Ducharme in the five games he’s played this season. His average ice time of just over 13 minutes has opened Ducharme up to criticism by the fanbase. But with the struggling Jeff Petry essentially told to stay home and heal his upper-body injury, the message has been sent by the front-office that it’s time to give the kids a shot the final 57 games this year. Norlinder will get a chance to audition for his new boss Gorton in Nashville tonight.

With the change in philosophy by the Montreal Canadiens evident based on Gorton’s early moves, it might be the veterans who have the most to prove. Enter Mike Hoffman. The left-winger has been out since Nov. 13th with an upper-body injury. Hoffman has been one of the few Habs veterans to impress this season with seven points in 13 games played. His three-year, $4.5 million dollar contract and his record as a power-play beast could also make him a desirable commodity across the league.

Twelve players hit the ice for the optional morning skate in Nashville this morning for the Habs. Jake Allen will get the start in nets.

Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens could line-up against the Nashville Predators tonight

Forwards

Artturi Lehkonen – Nick Suzuki – Cole Caufield

Mike Hoffman – Christian Dvorak – Tyler Toffoli

Jonathan Drouin – Ryan Poehling – Joel Armia

Michael Pezzetta – Jake Evans – Mathieu Perreault

Defencemen

Ben Chiarot – David Savard

Alexander Romanov – Brett Kulak

Mattias Norlinder – Chris Wideman

Goalies

Jake Allen

Samuel Montembeault

Predators and Prey

Since the Montreal Canadiens beat Nashville 6-3 on Nov. 20th, the Predators have been up and down.

The Preds are 3-3 over their last six, 5-5 over their last 10. They are still in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff picture but have sunk to third-last in the Central Division.

Habs fans will know just how dangerous Nashville are on the power-play however. The Canadiens were cruising to an emphatic 5-0 victory five games ago when Matt Duchene scored a natural hat-trick in the third period. Two of those goals came on the man-advantage. Nashville have the seventh-best power play in the league while the Habs penalty kill continues to be ranked fourth-worst in the NHL.

While Duchene’s 24 points on the season have been welcome, more surprising has been the breakout year so far by Mikael Granlund. Granlund is tied for 10th in league scoring with 25 points in 23 games. He had a four assist night against Columbus on Tuesday night in the Preds 6-0 win.

Less unexpected has been the terrific play of Roman Josi. Nashville’s captain is firmly in the Norris Trophy conversation. He has quarterbacked the Predators lethal power-play and also has 20 points in 23 games, good for fourth amongst defencemen league-wide.

Here’s how the Nashville Predators are expected to line-up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight per Puckpedia

Forwards

Filip Forsberg – Mikael Granlund – Matt Duchene

Eeli Tolvanen – Ryan Johansen – Luke Kunin

Yakov Trenin – Colton Sissons – Tanner Jeannot

Nick Cousins – Thomas Novak – Philip Tomasino

Defencemen

Roman Josi – Dante Fabbro

Mattias Ekholm – Alexandre Carrier

Mark Borowiecki – Matt Benning

Goalies

Juuse Saros

David Rittich

NOTES

  • The Predators have picked up at least a point in 15 of their last 17 meetings against the Habs
  • Nashville has only lost once at home to Montreal; a 3-1 defeat March 10th, 2003
  • Filip Forsberg scored a career-high four goals against The Blue Jackets on Tuesday night
  • Colton Sissons will play his 400th NHL game tonight
  • Chris Wideman will play his 200th game in the NHL
  • Ben Chiarot is two points away from 100 for his NHL career

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