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Canadiens Game 73: Defensive Pairings, Kotkaniemi Struggling

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Montreal Canadiens vs Canes Evans

The Montreal Canadiens (28-32-12) are set to host the Carolina Hurricanes (46-21-7) at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET.

Montreal is fresh off an exciting 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers that involved a few players hitting notable milestones. Defenceman Mike Matheson reached the 50-point mark for the first time in his career, and that was just the start. Juraj Slafkovsky also extended his scoring streak, which means that he’s not just the highest-scoring teenager in franchise history, but he now also owns the record for the longest scoring streak in Canadiens history.

But as per usual, captain Nick Suzuki led the charge. He’s been the team’s best player by a very wide margin this year, acting as a dominant presence both in the offensive and defensive zones.

With a goal versus the Flyers, Suzuki reached the 30-goal mark, a new career high. We tend to expect Suzuki’s great play every night, which mitigates a lot of the surprise when he inevitably pulls through, but there’s no doubt Suzuki continues to impress with his cerebral approach to the game. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a better example of leading by example.

Defenceman Kaiden Guhle will not be available, as he will be serving a one-game suspension for slashing Flyers forward Travis Konecny from the bench. Johnathan Kovacevic will replace him in the lineup. The only other lineup change to expect is goaltending Samuel Montembeault starting.

MUST READ: Montreal Canadiens Top Forwards Since All-Star Break

The Hurricanes are one of the hottest teams in the league, having won seven of their last 10 games. To make matters more interesting, they always go out of their way when they face the Canadiens, which means St-Louis’ team will have its hands full.

Sebastian Aho leads the offensive charge, as evidenced by his 32 goals and 51 assists in 71 games this season.

As for former Hab Jesperi Kotkaniemi, things have gone from bad to worse. The 23-year-old had already fallen out of favour, being relegated to the fourth-line centre role prior to the NHL’s Trade Deadline.

The Hurricanes then proceeded to acquire centre Evgeny Kuznetsov, which pushed Kotkaniemi further down the depth chart. He’s currently being used as a fourth-line centre, a decision that makes perfect sense when you note that he has earned just one assist in the last 10 games.

Kotkaniemi has only managed to produce 25 points in 74 games, a significant downtick in production from year-over-year. His underlying numbers are actually quite good, but a coach can only wait so long for the results to catch up to the process.

Montreal Canadiens Injuries

  • Carey Price (IR)
  • Chris Wideman (IR)
  • Kirby Dach (out indefinitely, ACL/MCL)
  • Christian Dvorak (out indefinitely)
  • Joshua Roy (4-6 weeks)

Carolina Hurricanes Injuries

  • Jesper Fast (day-to-day)

 

Montreal Canadiens Projected Lineup

LWCRW
Cole CaufieldNick SuzukiJuraj Slafkovsky
Brendan GallagherAlex NewhookJoel Armia
Jesse YlonenJake EvansJosh Anderson
Michael PezzettaChristian DvorakRafael Harvey-Pinard
LDRD
Mike MathesonJustin Barron
Lane HutsonDavid Savard
Jordan HarrisLogan Mailloux
Goalie
Samuel Montembeault
Cayden Primeau

 

Carolina Hurricanes Projected Lineup

Guentzel – Aho – Jarvis

Svechnikov – Staal – Teravainen

Martinook – Kuznetsov – Necas

Kotkaniemi – Drury – Noesen

Defence

Slavin – Burns

Skjei – Pesce

Orlov – Chatfield

Goalie

Kochetkov

 

How to Watch

TV

City TV, TVA Sports

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Me2

The Canes are the much better team and should win this game tonight. They are 1 of the best puck possession teams in the NHL and have been for several years now.

They are at or near the top in scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances 5 against 5, and xGF%. Pick almost any metric and the Canes are right there.

They are also in a fight with NYR for top spot in the Metro division, so it’s not likely they take the Canadiens lightly.

1st of 5 straight games for Montreal against the top teams in the East, getting 4 pts out of a possible 10 is more than satisfactory over this next stretch.

Dana

Is Suzuki now better than Aho? I think he is but they are peers and have very similar values

morrisk

KK is and always will be a horrible pick at #3 in the 2018 draft. I was LIVID when the Habs chose him. Should have taken either Q. Hughes or Brady…but no! Had to reach for a guy who frankly should never have even been a 1st rd pick. And Don Waddell is an emotional moron. He was so nuts in his supposed “fleece” of the Habs for KK. A 1st and a 3rd…now who’s laughing? I’d rather have Dvorak as my #3 centre than KK any day…I don’t care what his supposed ceiling is. And they are stuck with him for 6 more years at nearly $5K per season – for a 4th line centre??? THAT is hilarious.

Last edited 17 days ago by morrisk
Dana

I was ticked off big time as well at that draft. It epitomized Bergevins GM reign. Always posing and trying to appear smarter than his peers and typically avoiding common sense. He lost way more often than he won at drafting, trading or contract negotiations.

Steve

Bergevin made a bunch of really good trades! Aside from the Druin deal he traded very well he just sucked really bad at everything else, drafting in particular.

peter

Kotkaniemi has 10 points in his last 53 games, he is playing like Harvey-Pinard or Ylonen!