Which version of the Montreal Canadiens will show up tonight?
The team that got ragdolled 6-0 at home by the Penguins? Or the team that showed up and beat Pittsburgh 6-3 on Nov. 27th?
By the way, that was the Habs last win.
The Canadiens are once again mired in their second six-game losing streak of the season. And their roster continues to operate in a perpetual state of flux ahead of tonight’s game at PP&G Paints Arena.
Defenceman Chris Wideman has returned to Montreal to be with his partner as they await the birth of their child. Head coach Dominique Ducharme said after the team’s optional practice this morning that defenceman Jeff Petry will be a game-time decision, along with centreman Jake Evans. If Petry isn’t ready to go, undrafted 26 year-old defenceman Corey Schueneman will make his NHL debut.
Much has been made of Cole Caufield’s usage this season. It appears as though the Montreal Canadiens and their coaching staff are starting to make getting him going a priority.
At practice yesterday, Caufield skated on the right of Ryan Poehling and Artturi Lehkonen on the team’s third line. Evans’ availability could potentially throw those best laid plans into the bin.
But it’s Caufield‘s role on the power play that should have fans breathing a sigh of relief. The Wisconsin native was bumped up on to the team’s first wave of the man advantage yesterday. He lined up on the left side, ready to unleash the one-timer we haven’t quite seen in the NHL just yet. Joining Caufield on that wave of the power play will be Mike Hoffman, Nick Suzuki, Jonathan Drouin and Ben Chiarot.
“Two threats on each side, hopefully we can shoot the puck more from the top and then it’ll open (Hoffman) right up,” said Caufield today on the changes on the PP. “I think we can just create more scoring chances off that and from rebounds, play hockey from there. But just to have threats from the outside will be big tonight.”
Jake Allen will get the start in goal tonight.
Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens are expected to line up tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins
Mike Hoffman – Nick Suzuki – Mathieu Perreault
Jonathan Drouin – Jake Evans – Joel Armia
Artturi Lehkonen – Ryan Poehling – Cole Caufield
Michael Pezzetta – Cedric Paquette – Jesse Ylonen
Ben Chiarot – David Savard
Alexander Romanov – Kale Clague
Corey Schueneman – Brett Kulak
The Stingy Penguins
The problem for Cole Caufield and company is that they are playing a Pittsburgh team that have morphed into one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.
At least statistically.
With Evgeni Malkin skating in a non-contact jersey today, the Penguins seemed like they were close to getting all their offensive horses back.
But then Bryan Rust went down with a lower-body injury Nov. 29th and remains week-to-week per head coach Mike Sullivan. Then Jake Guentzel was placed on IR on Sunday with an upper-body injury.
So like the Montreal Canadiens, the Pens haven’t had their full contingent of players yet this season. Unlike the Habs, Pittsburgh have just plodded along. They’ve won four straight, albeit in a different way then we’ve seen before in the Sidney Crosby era.
The Penguins own the league’s best penalty kill and are third in the league in goals allowed per game. A huge part of that has been the play of Tristan Jarry, who’s putting up Vezina nominee level numbers right now. He has a .934 save percentage and a GAA under two goals per game.
The Habs faced Casey Desmith the last time these two teams played. They’re in for a much more challenging night tonight against Jarry.
Here’s how the Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to line up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight per Puckpedia
Evan Rodrigues – Sidney Crosby – Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker – Jeff Carter – Danton Heinen
Zach Aston-Reese – Teddy Blueger – Brock McGinn
Drew O’Connor – Brian Boyle – Dominic Simon
Brian Dumoulin – Kristopher Letang
Marcus Petersson – John Marino
Mike Matheson – Chad Ruhwedel
- Pittsburgh have won 10 of their last 13 games against the Montreal Canadiens
- Sidney Crosby enters tonight’s game with 399 career multi-point games. He could become the 14th player in NHL history to have 400 multi-point games. He has put up 56 points in 42 career games against the Habs.
- Montreal native Kristopher Letang is one point away from becoming the 43rd defenceman in NHL history to reach the 600 point plateau. He has 29 points in 37 games against his hometown team.
- Danton Heinen will play his 300th NHL game tonight.