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Gameday 29: Canadiens @ Blues – Lines, Notes – Injury insanity

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What’s more annoying? The sheer amount of injuries on the Montreal Canadiens? Or yours truly trying and failing to make clever analogies about the Habs injury situation that make you cry instead of chuckle?

Let’s go with the latter.

Injuries have been, will be and are the main storyline for the Montreal Canadiens as they get ready to take on the St. Louis Blues tonight.

There’s a return, another player out and an update on a veteran who has been placed on IR. And on a sidenote, the Habs are trying to avoid becoming the first team in the league to suffer 20 losses so far this season.

Update!

Joel Armia will return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury. The Finn is yet to get going this season with just five points in 26 games. Not ideal especially considering the four-year, $13.6 million dollar contract this off-season. He was playing some more noticeable hockey next to Jonathan Drouin and Ryan Poehling before getting hurt. He’ll slot right back on to the right of those players tonight against the Blues.

The reason why? Well, a roster spot in the top six opened up thanks to a niggling injury to Jake Evans. Evans is out tonight with a mystery injury that, per the team, he suffered in the first period of Thursday night’s loss to the Blackhawks. With Armia and Evans trading places on the pine, the updated amount of bodies and salary not playing stands at 11 and just under $54 million dollars.

The Montreal Canadiens won’t be seeing $4.25 million of that figure for the foreseeable future. The club announced this afternoon that Tyler Toffoli underwent surgery on his hand and will miss the next eight weeks of action.

“I personally haven’t seen anything to this extent,” said Mike Hoffman about the team’s wounded list as he gears up to face his former team. “I think you could say it’s bad luck but it’s almost more than that.”

Jeff Petry appears close to returning as he skated with his teammates this morning. He did extra work after practice with call-up Corey Schueneman so he appears day-to-day with that upper-body injury that has kept him out the last three games.

Sorry to spoil that somewhat positive news but the Habs are trying to snap a five-game skid. Jake Allen will face his former team for the first time tonight.

Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens are expected to line up against the St. Louis Blues tonight

Forwards

Mike Hoffman – Nick Suzuki – Artturi Lehkonen

Jonathan Drouin – Ryan Poehling – Joel Armia

Michael Pezzetta – Mathieu Perreault – Cole Caufield

Cedric Paquette – Laurent Dauphin – Jesse Ylonen

Defencemen

Ben Chiarot – David Savard

Alexander Romanov – Chris Wideman

Brett Kulak – Kale Clague

Goalies

Jake Allen

Samuel Montembeault

The high-scoring Blues?

The Habs opponent tonight, the St.Louis Blues, have more of a flair for offense this season. And they’re being led by two players who Canadiens fans have repeatedly clamoured to be trade targets for the team in previous seasons.

Jordan Kyrou is in the midst of his first breakout campaign in the NHL. Kyrou had 35 points in 55 games last season so it could be argued that he arrived during the COVID-shortened campaign. But he’s already only 10 points off that pace with 25 points in 26 games.

Robert Thomas is also nearly a point-per-game player with 22 in 24 games. The Habs might be spared facing the centreman as he is questionable with a hip injury. But the Blues have received contributions throughout their lineup, something the Habs were supposed to be able to do when healthy. In fact, six St.Louis players are either tied with or have more points than Canadiens leading scorer Nick Suzuki’s 18.

No surprise then that the home team tonight average the 6th most goals per game in the NHL at 3.39.

Also helping that offensive thrust is a power play operating at 28.4% efficiency, good for third in the entire league. Not a great matchup for a Habs penalty kill that ranks third last in the NHL.

Revenge!

And the Blues last line of defence will have an added incentive to beat the Canadiens. Charlie Lindgren was signed by the Habs as a free agent in 2016 and spent five years with the organization split between the AHL and NHL. With Jordan Binnington in the league’s COVID protocol, Lindgren was called into action when backup Ville Husso was injured in the third period of the Blues OT win over the Panthers on Dec. 7th. Lindgren made just three saves but was credited with the win versus Florida. He then responded with a 29-save performance in the Blues 6-2 victory over Detroit on Thursday.

St.Louis could have Tyler Bozak and Habs killer David Perron back in the lineup tonight. Bozak was in the league’s COVID protocol while Perron has been dealing with an upper-body injury. Both were on the ice for the Blues morning skate.

Here’s how the St.Louis Blues could line up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight per Puckpedia

Forwards

Brandon Saad – Ryan O’Reilly – Jordan Kyrou

Pavel Buchnevich – Ivan Barbashev – Vladimir Tarasenko

Nathan Walker – Brayden Schenn – Oskar Sundqvist

Dakota Joshua – Logan Brown – Matthew Peca

Defencemen

Niko Mikkola – Colton Parayko

Marco Scandella – Torey Krug

Scott Perunovich – Robert Bortuzzo

Goalies

Charlie Lindgren

Jon Gillies

NOTES:

  • The Blues are 4-1 over their last five games against the Habs at Enterprise Center
  • St.Louis are riding a six-game home winning streak
  • Brayden Schenn is one goal away from 200 for his career
  • Ben Chiarot is two points away from 100 for his career
  • If you missed the Habs faithful serenading Marc-Andre Fleury after he became just the third goalie in NHL history to reach 500 wins on Thursday night, check it out!

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