What to Watch For: Pens vs. Canadiens
PENGUINS (13-8-0) vs. CANADIENS (13-4-3)
After the Montreal Canadiens finished dead last in the Eastern Conference last season, team owner Geoff Molson knew it was time to make changes.
He fired general manager Pierre Gauthier and hired Marc Bergevin – assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, former NHL defenseman and longtime friend of Mario Lemieux – to take over. Bergevin has since made a number of crafty, smart decisions in his first year as a general manager, starting with the hiring of a face very familiar to Pens fans.
|Michel Therrien is coach of the Canadiens (Getty Images)|
Right now, the Canadiens are on a 7-0-2 tear that has them in first place in the Eastern Conference. A big part of their success is their balanced attack. Different lines have been stepping up each night, and they have eight players with double digits in points and four players right at the precipice with nine points. Left winger Max Pacioretty leads with 16 points (6G-10A) in 16 games while longtime Hab Tomas Plekanec’s eight goals rank first on the team. Bergevin’s first draft pick, 19-year-old Alex Galchenyuk (taken No. 3 overall last June), has fit right in the lineup, while offseason acquisition Brandon Prust provides an edge.
There is a new – old – face in Montreal’s lineup, as Bergevin sent veteran Erik Cole to Dallas on Tuesday for Michael Ryder – a Canadiens draft pick who spent his first four NHL seasons with the franchise. Ryder’s 14 points (6G-8A) now rank second in team scoring and he will be used on the power play.
In addition to getting contributions from all four lines, Montreal has been playing strong defense. Like the Penguins, they want their defensemen to be involved, help them grind other teams down in the offensive zone and keep them from gaining their blue line. After holding out through training camp and the first six games of the regular season, top defenseman P.K. Subban is back on Montreal’s blue line and has nine points (3G-6A) in 14 games. Raphael Diaz (1G-12A-13 points) and Andrei Markov (5G-7A-12P) are among the league’s top scoring D-men. However, Diaz suffered a concussion earlier this week and will not play Saturday. Tomas Kaberle will take his place in the lineup.
But no matter how well the defense is playing, the goaltender must keep pucks out of the net – and Carey Price has been doing that. He’s been the star back there as he’s been lights out in goal for the Habs. He’s not seeing a huge volume of shots because of the Habs’ stingy D, but is making the needed saves. As a result, Price has an 11-3-2 record, a .924 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against average.
Defenseman Mark Eaton will make his season debut for the Penguins on Saturday in Montreal, as Paul Martin will not play in the game. He is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, sustained Thursday against the Hurricanes.
In addition, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin skated in Pittsburgh for roughly 30 minutes on Wednesday morning, which was the first time he's conducted physical activity since suffering a concussion on Friday, Feb. 22 in a game against the Florida Panthers. He then skated again on Thursday. He did not skate Friday or Saturday due to a lack of ice but did an off-ice workout Saturday. Malkin has missed the last 3 games.
F Evgeni Malkin, concussion
D Paul Martin, lower body
F Rene Bourque, concussion
D Raphael Diaz, concussion
F Petteri Nokelainen, lower body
Author: Michelle Crechiolo