The Montreal Canadiens (7-23-4, 18 pts), play their first game since New Year’s Day as they kick off a seven-game road trip in Boston against their old rivals, the Boston Bruins (19-11-2, 40 pts) at TD Garden on Wednesday night (7 pm, TNT, SN1, RDS).
The Canadiens will be trying to snap a three-game skid and win their first game on the road since will try for their third straight win and their fifth win in seven games when they host the road since a 6-3 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on November 27.
The Habs come into this game after an absolute nightmare of a stretch since their last game on Dec.16. Since beating the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout that night in front of an empty Bell Centre due to COVID restrictions, the Habs had their next four games postponed, including a Dec. 18 match with the Boston Bruins in Montreal. With their team still ravaged by COVID and shorthanded, the Canadiens then went 0-2-1 over their next three games before their next four games were postponed as well.
As mentioned above, the Montreal Canadiens have not played a game since losing to the Florida Panthers on New Year’s Day, and on this past Sunday, they practiced as a team for the first time since December 29. They were missing a quarter of their team still for the last three days and only just met up with six players that were stranded in the States due to COVID, for the game-day skate Wednesday.
For Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme, who knows the odds are stacked against his team now and for the foreseeable future, the key at this point is to get a consistent effort.
“The biggest challenge is to be able to be consistent, to be able to compete for 60 minutes, not only physically, but mentally. You get into that groove at one point when you play a lot and you play well and you have success, then you build momentum. We’ve been off for a while. We’ve been facing a lot of challenges since the beginning of the season. We haven’t built that momentum,” explained Ducharme. “But, having our guys refreshed mentally and physically, the biggest challenge is to be able to sustain the game for 60 minutes and be consistent doing everything that we want to do. We don’t want to be cracking at one point.”
The Bruins come into their second tilt of the season against their arch-rivals from the Bell Province as one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. After erasing a 2-0 first period deficit and scoring six straight goals en route to a 7-3 win over the Washington Capitals, the Bruins have now outscored their opponents 28-15 over their last six games. The Boston Bruins have also scored five goals or more in four of those six games. Their re-vamped lines are clicking on all cylinders with a solid number of games on hand on the teams chasing them for that final playoff spot.
“We are getting contributions from every line, which is what you need to get going down the stretch and to make a good playoff run,” winger Brad Marchand said Wednesday. “We kind of knew that once we got into playing more regularly that we’d find our momentum and find our game. And it was just frustrating early on where we kept having breaks.
Everyone’s kind of building chemistry now together and has that time to learn how each other plays, learn the system. And I think we’re all just kind of coming together at a good time right now. If we can continue to play fast and play in deep in their zone and continue to transition fast, we should continue to be able to produce.”
The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins last met on November 14 when the Bruins beat the Habs 5-2 at TD Garden.
As is the case lately with NHL money lines the struggling Canadiens there’s not much value in taking the Boston Bruins (-355) or the puck line (-145) tonight. The play here would be the first period puck line (-1/2 EV) where you can hopefully get the Bruins jumping out to an early lead over a depleted and rusty Habs team at even money. With the Bruins on a torrid scoring pace recently, the OVER 6 could be a nice play as well.
Prediction: Bruins 5 Canadiens 2
Montreal Canadiens Notes
-While the Bruins are about to play seven-straight in the friendly confines of TD Garden, the Montreal Canadiens will play their next seven games on the road and won’t play another home game until Jan. 27 when they host the Anaheim Ducks. That will be their first home game since Dec. 16.
-The Montreal Canadiens got two more players back from COVID Protocol Wednesday as forward Jake Evans and defenseman Alexander Romanov skated with the team Wednesday, the team is still missing plenty of regulars in their lineup. Forwards Josh Anderson (upper-body), Tyler Toffoli (hand), Paul Byron (COVID), Brendan Gallagher (lower-body), Joel Edmundson (Personal, COVID), Carey Price (torn meniscus), and Shea Weber, essentially retired after offseason foot surgery are all out.
-Habs center Nick Suzuki leads the team in points with 19. He is tied for the team lead in goals (7) with Anderson and for the team lead in assists (12).
Boston Bruins Notes
–The Boston Bruins signed goalie Tuukka Rask to a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday and as a result, rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman was sent down to Providence in the AHL. Rask will back up Linus Ullmark tonight and get his first start of the season tomorrow night against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.
-Forwards Tomas Nosek and Jake DeBrusk are out of COVID protocol and will return to the lineup tonight for the Boston Bruins.
-Forward Nick Foligno (lower-body) got better news than expected from his MRI on Tuesday and will not be out as long as originally feared. Forward Trent Frederic (upper-body) is out tonight and at least tomorrow night, if not longer. Defenseman Jakub Zboril is out for the season after successful surgery for a torn ACL last month.
-Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have each lit the lamp twice in each of their last two games. Marchand has five goals and an assist in his last three games and Pastrnak has four goals and an assist in his last four games.
Montreal Canadiens Lines:
Mike Hoffman-Nick Suzuki-Artturi Lehkonen
Jonathan Drouin-Christian Dvorak-Joel Armia
Laurent Dauphin-Ryan Poehling-Cole Caufield
Cedric Paquette-Lukas Vejdemo-Michael Pezzetta
Ben Chiarot-David Savard
Brett Kulak-Jeff Petry
Sami Niku-Chris Wideman
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Craig Smith
Taylor Hall – Erik Haula – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Oskar Steen
Anton Blidh – Tomas Nosek – Curtis Lazar
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo
John Moore-Urho Vaakanainen