Carolina Hurricanes (6-9-3) at Montreal Canadiens (7-7-3)
Bell Centre, 7 p.m.
TV: TSN, RDS
This is one game I have been looking forward to all season because it marks the first time this year that the Hurricanes will face former teammate Erik Cole. I've said a lot about Cole this off-season and how I felt that Carolina can replace him because he wasn't much of a possession driver here and much of his success was dependant on Eric Staal. As you probably know, Carolina has yet to find a replacement for Cole and the wing position on the first line has been a carousel all season. This relates to the poor start Staal got off to (he's picked it up since November) and we're only a month into the season, so I stand by my initial statement.
The reason why I believe Cole's performance in Carolina is replaceable is because he posted very poor possession metrics last season despite playing on the first line. In the WOWY I did for Eric Staal, Cole's numbers were awful when he was playing without #12. Cole's shooting percentage was also higher than it ever was in 2010-11, so he was slightly lucky last season. I am willing to say that having Cole on Staal's wing would be nice right now but I still believe that replacing him should not be a big hassle.
Cole's performance in Montreal has completely reversed. He isn't having any bounces go his way (6.80 on-ice shooting%), but he has been one of Montreal's best forwards in terms of possession and scoring chances. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.
Lines, analysis & more after the jump
Staal - Sutter - LaRose
Skinner - Jokinen - Ruutu
Ponikarovsky - Brent - Dwyer
Tlusty - Dalpe - Boychuk
Gleason - Harrison
Allen - McBain
Kaberle - Joslin
Moen - Plekanec - Gionta
Pacioretty - Desharnais - Cole
Gomez - Eller - Palushaj
Nokelainan - Engqvist - Darche
Gorges - Subban
Emelin - Weber
Spacek - Diaz
Getting to know the Habs
Despite their record, Montreal has been a good team this year that's been devastated by injuries. They are missing about half of their defense, two of their top goal-scorers and have played without Scott Gomez for half the season. Carey Price has also struggled this season but he's coming off two very strong outings against Buffalo and Phoenix respectively. Montreal is also in the top-five in the league when it comes to shots for on the powerplay but they are only converting on only 12.3% of their chances. Hey, that sounds familiar!
I have to say that I'm impressed with how Subban's defensive game has evolved over his career. He was projected to be an offensive specialst but injuries to Josh Gorges and Jaroslav Spacek forced him into a top-pairing role last season and he actually performed very well. He's doing the same now with Gorges and that pairing has done a great job this year.
Game notes, matchups:
- The Staal-Stuter-LaRose line did everything but score on Monday night and I'm hoping they can finally get on the board tonight. They've been great at getting the puck deep and driving possession but are struggling to create chances.
- I am not completely sure which line Harrison/Gleason will be assigned because their top forwards are jumbled around the lineup. With no Cammalleri or Kostitysn it makes sense for them to spread things out a little bit and I'm guessing that our main concner will be shutting down Gionta and Plekanec. Those two have the most offensive firepower out of anyone else in the forward corps.
- Ward in net again tonight after being chased for the second time this season. I was really thinking that this would be a good chance to give Boucher a start but I suppose it makes sense to let Ward rebound.
- The penalty kill has played well in terms of preventing chances but not goals, it's a weird trend but I think the percentages will swing back in our favor soon enough.
- Two games without Joni Pitkanen and the Canes powerplay has generated only three chances in 12 minutes of ice-time. If Kaberle doesn't rebound then this is going to get ugly fast.
- The Canes appear to be not that good of a team this year but the bounces aren't going in their favor either. PDO is 970, which is mostly due to a .900 save percentage at even strength. When playing 5-on-5, the Canes have scored 31 goals for, which is in the middle of the pack but they have given up over 45 goals which says a lot about how the goaltending has been. We know that Ward and Boucher can do a lot better than this.