Canadiens fans were greeted with encouraging news this morning, as forward Sean Monahan practiced with the team and is ready to make his debut with his new club as they face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Montreal Monday night.
In addition, captain Nick Suzuki is also reportedly nearing a return to play, having recovered from a lower-body injury that kept him out of action for two weeks. All signs point to Suzuki playing in Tuesday’s matchup versus the Ottawa Senators.
It’s unclear where Suzuki will play on Tuesday, but we have an early indication of one of his potential linemates, with Cole Caufield being kept out of the lineup against the Maple Leafs.
Monahan, on the other hand, will feature on the Canadiens’ top line, alongside Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson, in what can only be described as a line with significant offensive potential.
They’ll share the bulk of the important minutes with the only line coach Martin St.Louis has kept intact since the start of training camp: Evgeni Dadonov, Christian Dvorak, and Brendan Gallagher.
They’ve shown some encouraging signs of chemistry, but are yet to dominate their opposition in the same manner as we’ve seen Gallagher’s lines do in the past.
Given as we’re quickly approaching the end of the preseason calendar, the bottom-six is slowly starting to take shape, though you could argue the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup against the Leafs is built with a top-9 and not just a top-6.
Veteran, Mike Hoffman is slated to play with two linemates that are anything but vertically challenged: Kirby Dach and Juraj Slafkovsky. Slafkovsky could be shifted to either wing, as evidenced by his use on both the left and right-wing throughout practice. The third-line usage should allow Slafkovsky to play against a lower level of competition and hopefully turn around his relatively disappointing showing at training camp.
As will be the case throughout the season, Mike Matheson is set to patrol the blue line on the top pair. He will be joined by Otto Leskinen on Monday night. Leskinen enjoyed his best showing of the season in the Canadiens’ loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night and will be looking to capitalize on the momentum he built through his strong shifts in the offensive zone.
Arber Xhekaj will feature with Justin Barron, a pairing that head coach Martin St.Louis will surely watch closely. Both Xhekaj and Barron are knocking on the door, hoping to earn a job in the NHL this season.
Corey Schueneman and Madison Bowey will complete the defensive pairings, as Bowey joins Monahan in making his Canadiens debut.
And finally, goaltender Jake Allen is set to play the entire game, which is a very good indication that the regular season is just around the corner.