The Montreal Canadiens (14-14-2) host the Tampa Bay Lightning (19-9-1) on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM ET.
After a relatively sleepy start to the season, the Lightning have found their rhythm by winning eight of their last 10 games, and are currently enjoying a four-game winning streak.
Fortunately for the Canadiens, the Lightning have struggled on the road, with seven of their nine regulation losses coming away from the Amalie Arena.
But regardless of their road record, the Canadiens are set for a difficult matchup, owing to a Lightning roster that is bursting at the seams with talent.
Nikita Kucherov leads his team with 11 goals and 34 assists in 29 games, good for fourth overall in the NHL’s scoring race.
He’s followed by Steven Stamkos, who has seen a resurgence in production over the last few seasons. Stamkos is tied for the team lead in goals with Brayden Point, with 16 goals in 29 games.
Canadiens first-round pick Mikhail Sergachev has been the most productive player on the blueline, with five goals and 22 assists, however, he’s not expected to face his former team due to an injury that has left his health status day-to-day.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to start the game for the Lightning, but not yet confirmed.
The Canadiens are coming off back-to-back losses in which they struggled to find any semblance of chemistry or cohesion
With a strong start to the year in the books, the Canadiens are still sporting a .500 record, however, it’s fair to say there are hints the other shoe is going to drop any day now.
In recent weeks, the Canadiens have struggled to create high-danger chances while allowing opponents free rein in the defensive zone.
Fortunately, there is some good news.
Kaiden Guhle, in particular, has found a new level of comfort in the NHL thanks to his stoic approach.
The same can be said about Jordan Harris, who has defied all expectations this season on his way to becoming one of the most reliable defenders on the team.
And, of course, Cole Caufield continues to do what Cole Caufield does best. He leads all Canadiens players with 18 goals in 30 games.
As for the lineup, the Canadiens decided to pull out the blender at morning practice.
In an attempt to spread the talent a little more evenly, Kirby Dach was removed from the top line, and replaced by feisty winger Josh Anderson.
Dach will play on the second line between Juraj Slafkovsky and Jonathan Drouin.
Martin St. Louis and Juraj Slafkovsky having a little post-skate chat. A good amount of teaching going on. pic.twitter.com/zU9lNale5Y
— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) December 17, 2022
Veteran winger Evgenii Dadonov will watch the game from the press box, along with veteran defender Chris Wideman.
Mike Matheson will form a pairing with rookie Jordan Harris, whereas Arber Xhekaj is expected to play on the third pairing with Johnathan Kovacevic.
Jake Allen (9-11-0) is set to make the start for the Canadiens.
Montreal Canadiens Injuries
- Sean Monahan (2 weeks)
- David Savard (day-to-day)
- Brendan Gallagher (2 weeks)
- Carey Price (LTIR)
- Paul Byron (LTIR)
Tampa Bay Lightning Injuries
- Mikhail Sergachev (day-to-day)
- Rudolf Balcers (IR)
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lineup
|Josh Anderson||Nick Suzuki||Rem Pitlick|
|Mike Hoffman||Kirby Dach||Jesse Ylönen|
|Owen Beck||Christian Dvorak||Evgenii Dadonov|
|Micheal Pezzetta||Alex Belzile||Rafaël Harvey-Pinard|
|Mike Matheson||David Savard|
|Arber Xhekaj||Justin Barron|
|Jordan Harris||Johnathan Kovacevic|
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lineup
Hagel – Point – Kucherov
Stamkos – Paul – Killorn
Maroon – Cirelli – Colton
Namestnikov – Bellemare – Perry
Hedman – Perbix
Cole – Cernak
Fleury – Bogosian
Special Teams[table “18” not found /]
- The Canadiens have a pair of rookie defencemen leading the blue line scoring race. Kaiden Guhle (11 points) and Jordan Harris (12 points)
- Nine members of the Canadiens have earned 10 or more points this season.
- Kirby Dach leads all Canadiens players with 16 assists in 30 games.