Carolina Hurricanes (20-25-11) at Montreal Canadiens (23-24-9)
Bell Centre, 7:30 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN-Habs
Tonight's game should be a very emotional night for Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller as he returns to Montreal for the first time as the Carolina bench boss. Muller was well-traveled over his NHL career but he is best known for his time with the Montreal Canadiens as he led the team to a Stanley Cup in 1993 and served as team captain for the 1994-95 season. He may have spent only four seasons in Montreal but his service as a player and captain there are not forgotten. There is no doubt that he was loved in Montreal and that he loved Montreal, as well so this is going to be a very special game for him and the Canadiens fanbase.
That aside, let's not forget that the Canes are coming off back-to-back overtime losses, both of which were heart-breaking. I am sure that Muller hasn't forgotten about those and will look to get the Canes back in the win column tonight. Let's hope the Canes do Muller a solid tonight and help him make this night even more memorable.
Lines & more after the jump
Tlusty - Staal - Ruutu
Samson - Jokinen - Skinner
Nodl - Sutter - Dwyer
Stewart - Brent - LaRose
Allen - Gleason
Harrison - Faulk
Spacek - McBain
Pacioretty - Desharnais - Cole
Bourque - Gomez - Kostitsyn
Darche - Plekanec - Leblanc
Palushaj - Eller - White
Gorges - Subban
Gill - Campoli
Kaberle - Emelin
Getting to know the Habs
Earlier in the season, I said that the Habs were a good team that was destroyed by injuries and bad luck. Right now, they are starting to play more like the team we expected to see out of this year even if they are still banged up a bit. Most of the focus on the Habs for the last week has been on Scott Gomez scoring his first goal in what seems like forever but what is getting overlooked is that some of their younger players are contributing nicely. Max Pacioretty is having quite a season, Hamilton call-up Louis Leblanc is getting some time with Tomas Plekanec and taking advantage of it by showing off some of his scoring touch. Lars Eller is also having a good season even if he is being plugged on the fourth line. The most consistent player for the Habs, however, is former Hurricane Erik Cole who is second on the team in both goals and points, trailing only Pacioretty in both categories. He is driving possession at a much superior rate than he did last season and the pucks are finally starting to go in for him, as well so he could be on his way to another 30-goal season. I wasn't a huge fan of Cole but I am glad to see him playing well this year.
- Also returning to Montreal tonight is Jaroslav Spacek and I'm not sure how the reception for him will be after he said that he "didn't miss being there" and that the media was "a circus" in the city. Although, he wasn't exactly off-base with those comments but it likely wont win him over too many fans. Either way, I am hoping he scores tonight just for the hell of it.
- Jerome Samson is getting his second call-up of the year in place of Drayson Bowman, who had a very poor showing in Colorado and was sent down two days later. While Bowman wasn't scoring, I think the main reason for replacing him with Samson is because of how well he played in his previous call-up, which was cut short by injuries if you remember correctly, and the coaching staff wants to give him another look now that he's fully healthy. I look forward to seeing if he can pick up where he left off in January.
- Skinner's line is coming off a rough game in Colorado so here's to hoping they rebound because the team really needs them to get going right now.
- I'm not sure who Nodl-Sutter-Dwyer and Gleason-Allen will be matched up with tonight because Montreal spreads out their "big guns" throughout the lineup but it seems logical to put them against their top-scorers, which would be Cole and Pacioretty.
- Tonight will be Ward's 13th consecutive start and I think it's been over a month since back-up Justin Peters last played. Get well soon, Mr. Boucher.
Enjoy the game and let's go Canes.