Montreal Canadiens (9-9-3) at Carolina Hurricanes (8-11-3)
RBC Center, 7 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, RDS
The Canes are looking to get retribution out of the way early as they take on the Montreal Canadiens in a rematch of last week's 4-0 beatdown where Carolina alledgedly hit "rock bottom." Some were saying that would be Paul Maurice's final game behind the Hurricanes bench after GM Jim Rutherford mentioned that changes would be made. All that happened was Justin Faulk being recalled and Zac Dalpe going back to Charlotte but it's worth noting that the Canes have been playing better since that atrocity last Wednesday and have gone 2-1-0 in their last three games. Very small sample but it's a step in the right direction. What's encouraging is that they outplayed their opponent in two straight games and managed to beat the Flyers due to a strong performance from the powerplay, which has been really hard to come by this year. The question is can the Hurricanes continue this pace in tonight's game against the Canadiens? If they want to make up more ground in the Eastern Conference then they need to.
Lines, analysis & game notes after the jump
Ruutu - Staal - Skinner
Ponikarovsky - Jokinen - LaRose
Tlusty - Sutter - Dwyer
Sutter - Brent - Stewart
Gleason - Allen
Faulk - Harrison
Kaberle - McBain
Cammalleri - Plekanec - Gionta
Pacioretty - Desharnais - Cole
Eller - Gomez - Moen
Darche - Nokalainen - Palushaj
Gorges - Subban
Gill - Emelin
Weber - Diaz
The last time met
Montreal's lineup has changed a bit with Hal Gill back in the lineup but the forward corps is mostly the same so I'm going to post how the Canes did against them in terms of scoring chances last Wednesday. WARNING: Numbers are not pretty.
The Canes lines are obviously a lot different now but this gives an idea of how each player did against their matchup in the last meeting. What isn't encouraging is that almost nobody won their matchup against that third defense pairing for Montreal, one that included a guy playing his first NHL game (St-Denis). They have Gill playing with Yannick Weber tonight and the former normally takes on tough competition while the latter does not so it will be interesting to see how they are used. I would imagine that Jacques Martin would like to take some pressure off PK Subban and Josh Gorges who have done most of the heavy lifting with most of the defense corps being injured recently.
It seems that Montreal typically uses one of their top two lines against the opponent's scoring lines so that would mean Staal, Skinner and Ruutu will probably be matched up against Gionta, Plekanec and Cammalleri. Neither of them did particulary well in the last meeting against either matchup so that's not encouraging. What's interesting is that Martin gives Plekanec and Gionta a ton of defensive zone starts but that's understandable when you look at the rest of the roster. Plekanec has always been a great two-way center and Montreal doesn't appear to have a bottom-six player who can eat up more defensive zone draws. However, they have been giving a lot of sheltered minutes to Scott Gomez's line and he has been putting up some obsence numbers in terms of shot quality. Unfortunately, he has no goals to show for it and the team has yet to score a goal five-on-five with the score tied when Gomez is on the ice. You have to think that is going to turn around sooner or later.
The only players who played well in the last game were Bryan Allen, Tim Gleason and, to an extent, Eric Stal and Jeff Skinner. If Gleason and Allen can keep shut down that top line from Montreal and Faulk/Harrison can continue their strong play as a pairing then I think Carolina has a decent shot at winning this game.
- Chad LaRose has been the subject of conversation among a lot of fans lately and there's a good chance that he's going to break his season point total record (31) if he keeps scoring at his current pace. Something that's been on my mind is if he has the skill-set and ability to be a top-six forward because his underlying numbers are fantastic this year (like way better than before), so I'm going to dig deeper into his game and study his on-ice instincts more to see if I can discover anything different from this year's #59.
- With the exception of Nokalainen, Montreal's fourth line has been very productive in terms of creating possession. Both Engqvist and Darche have raw, relative and adjusted corsi ratings that are well in the black. In fact, the majority of Montreal's forward corps have been solid at creating offense but they just aren't scoring a lot of goals. That the their defense is destroyed by injuries.
- The powerplay might bring more frustration tonight because Montreal is one of the better teams in the league at killing penalties. Top 10 on shots prevented per 60 minutes when playing 4 on 5.
- As long as Joni Pitkanen is out, I am going to start a pool where everyone guesses which defenseman plays the most minutes on a given night. We've seen Bryan Allen, Tim Gleason, Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison and Tomas Kaberle all lead the team in ice time during these nights. My guess is Tim Gleason tonight but that's only because I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of penalties.
- Carolina's overall scoring chance percentage has been slowly getting better over the past month. I'm calling it "The March Towards .500."
- My expectations for tonight: Don't get shutout, outplay the Canadiens, get at least a point. That sounds reasonable.
Enjoy the game.