After what amounted to a ten-game road trip broken up into two separate trips, the Montreal Canadiens (8-25-7, 23 pts) return to the Bell Centre for the first time since Dec. 18. and host the Anaheim Ducks (21-16-8, 50 pts), Thursday (7:05 PM ET, TSN2, BSSC, BSSD, and RDS).
Tonight’s game kicks off an eight-game homestand and a stretch in which the Montreal Canadiens will play ten of their next 12 games on Bell Centre ice. The Canadiens, who are returning home after seven games (1-3-3) on the road, are 5-10-1 at home this season. The Ducks, who beat the Habs 4-2 in Anaheim on Halloween, are 8-9-4 away from the Honda Center.
Cayden Primeau (1-4-1, 4.32 GAA, .889 save percentage) gets the nod between the pipes for the Montreal Canadiens. Primeau will be trying to rebound after allowing five goals on 32 shots in the 8-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild Monday, and being pulled after the second period for the second time in his last three starts.
Anthony Stolarz will be between the pipes for the Ducks. He is 6-5-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .919 save percentage.
The Ducks are coming in and playing the tail end of a back-to-back after losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a shootout on Wednesday in Toronto. They’re also playing two games in three nights, while the Montreal Canadiens come in fresh not having played since Monday. Besides the debacle in Minnesota, the Habs are playing much better hockey as of late and getting more top-six forwards back into their groove. Go with the Canadiens in regulation at +180 and the Under 5.5 total.
Prediction: Canadiens 4 Ducks 1
Montreal Canadiens Notes
-Forward Lukas Vejdemo slots in for Christain Dvorak (undisclosed, likely concussion). Vejdemo last played on Jan. 12 in Boston. He has a goal in four games, having lit the lamp back on Dec. 28.
-In the loss Monday, Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki was held off the scoresheet for the first time in three games but the Habs’ No. 1 center has been looking like the Suzuki of last season and the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs. The 22-year-old pivot has a goal and four assists in his last four games.
-Montreal Canadiens winger Mike Hoffman has two goals and an assist in his last three games. Since returning from an upper-body injury that kept him out of the lineup from Dec. 16-Jan. 12, Hoffman has three goals and an assist in seven games.
-He won’t be between the pipes but Sam Montembeault will be back in uniform and back up Primeau tonight. Just this past weekend, there was fear that Montembeault’s hand injury suffered a week ago in Las Vegas would require surgery, but Montembeault was back at practice yesterday and cleared to play. The Montreal Canadiens goalie is 1-0-1 in his last two starts, stopping 97 of 104 shots in two games. Overall, Montembeault is 2-6-4 with a 3.73 GAA and .904 save percentage.
Montreal Canadiens Injury Report
-As mentioned above, Dvorak will not play tonight. Dvorak was given a therapy day Wednesday and the hope was he could be cleared from the return-to-play protocol.
-Forwards Brendan Gallagher (lower-body) Paul Byron (hip) skated in non-contact jerseys at practice on Wednesday and again at the game-day skate Thursday. The hope is that they’re cleared to play Friday and can play Saturday against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
-Forward Jonathan Drouin is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
-Goalie Carey Price continues to rehab his knee and is working out but there is no timetable for a return.
-Montreal Canadiens forwards Joel Armia and Cole Caufield are still skating and will remain in Madison, WI after entering the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol last week. They are expected to return to Canada and Montreal on Friday.
-Defenceman Joel Edmundson (Personal, COVID) remains out indefinitely.
Anaheim Ducks Notes
-In a rare night off for the Ducks penalty kill, the Leafs lit them up for three power-play goals. That was the first time all season, the Ducks PK gave up three goals. The Ducks are now seventh on the penalty kill (83.5%) and tenth on the power play (24.6) and are one of ten teams to rank in the top 10 of both special teams units.
-The young guns have arrived in Anaheim this season. Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, and Sonny Milano have been three of the team’s four-best offensive players for the Ducks this season. In 40 games played, Terry (23g, 14a, 37 pts), leads the team in goals and assists; Zegras (10g, 20a, 30 pts)) is second in points in 39 games and Milano (9g, 16a) is fourth in points with 25 in 35 games.
-On the opposite end of the age spectrum, 36-year-old Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has had a renaissance season and leads the team in assists with 23 helpers to go with three goals in 37 games. However, other than a two-point (1g, 1a), game at Boston on Tuesday in a 5-3 win over the Bruins, Getzlaf has been held off the scoresheet in four of his last five games.
-Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is living up to the three-year, $11.4 million contract he signed with the Ducks prior to last season. The 2020 Stanley Cup champion leads the Ducks’ blue line in assists with 17 helpers and has seven goals in 45 games. Another defenseman to keep an eye on is rookie rearguard Jamie Drysdale, who has three goals and 15 assists in 45 games. The sixth overall pick at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft has to be considered as a candidate for the 2022 Calder Trophy.
Anaheim Ducks Injury Report
-Milano is not on this five-game road trip after being placed on injured reserve this past Monday.
-Ducks center Adam Henrique has been out with an upper-body injury since Dec. 3 and while he won’t play tonight, he’s hoping to draw back in on Saturday in Ottawa against the Senators.
-Ducks forward Derek Grant (lower-body) missed the game in Toronto Wednesday and is likely out tonight.
-Max Jones is out for 4-6 months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle Wednesday.
Montreal Canadiens Lines:
Artturi Lehkonen-Nick Suzuki-Tyler Toffoli
Laurent Dauphin-Ryan Poehling–Mike Hoffman
Rem Pitlick-Jake Evans-Josh Anderson
Michael Pezzetta-Lukas Vejdemo-Cedric Paquette
Ben Chiarot-David Savard
Brett Kulak-Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov-Chris Wideman
Anaheim Ducks Lines
Troy Terry – Ryan Getzlaf – Trevor Zegras
Rickard Rakell – Issac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg
Max Comtois – Sam Steel – Vinni Lettieri
Nicolas Deslauriers – Sam Carrick – Buddy Robinson
Hampus Lindholm – Jamie Drysdale
Kevin Shattenkirk – Cam Fowler
Greg Patryn – Simon Benoit