Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Blue Jackets game at the Bell Centre on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).
The matchup: This is the first of three meetings between these teams this season and the Canadiens have home ice for two of those games. Montreal earned five of a possible six points last week and has moved into third place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-2 win over Los Angeles Saturday. The Blue Jackets are coming off a 4-2 loss in Colorado Saturday and they have a 1-3-1 record in November. A lack of offence has Columbus six points out of a playoff position. The Blue Jackets rank 30th in the NHL with 2.35 goals a game.
The goaltenders: How many games will Carey Price play this season? At his present pace, the answer will be closer to 70 than 60, which would be manageable if the Canadiens want him to have anything left for — dare we say it? — the playoffs. This is Montreal’s 18th game and Price will be making his 15th start. It’s safe to say the Blue Jacket miss two-time Vézina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Starting goaltender Joonas Korpisalo has a 6-7-1 record with an .895 save percentage. Elvis Merzlikins, who was regarded as the best goaltender outside the NHL when playing in Switzerland, has a 0-1-2 record.
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Drouin on top: Jonathan Drouin is finally living up to the expectations the Canadiens had for him when they acquired him from Tampa Bay for defenceman Mikhail Sergachev. After two good but not great seasons, Drouin is off to a hot start with a team-high 15 points, including seven goals. He’s on the top line with Phil Danault and Brendan Gallagher, who also has seven goals. Tomas Tatar has been in head coach Claude Julien’s dog house of late because he has been taking too many penalties, but he’s second in team scoring with 14 points, including five goals.
Kotkaniemi continues to sit: If practice is any indication, Jesperi Kotkaniemi has recovered from his groin injury, but he’ll miss his sixth consecutive game. Julien said the 19-year-old is day-to-day, but he’s still on the injured-reserve list. This seems to a case of the Canadiens delaying the decision on how they’re going to use their three young forwards. Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling, who started the season in the AHL, are playing well and that takes away some of the urgency in bringing Kotkaniemi back. Flu-like symptoms kept captain Shea Weber out of practice Monday, but Julien expects him to play.
Panarin’s absence felt: Bobrovsky isn’t the only player from last season who is missed. Artemi Panarin, the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer, jumped to the Rangers who gave him US$81 million over seven seasons. Pierre-Luc Dubois, a 21-year-old from Ste-Agathe, has a team-high six goals and he and Gustav Nyquist share the points lead with 11. They are the only Columbus players in double-digits in scoring. Alexander Wennberg has 12 points (one goal) in 13 games against Montreal. Brandon Dubinsky hasn’t played a game this season because of a wrist injury. Th Blue Jackers are also missing defencemen Ryan Murray (broken hand) and Markus Nutivaara (upper-body injury).