Habs host Senators in Kovalev's return
SENATORS (4-2-0) at CANADIENS (2-4-0)
Season Series --
This is the first matchup of the season for the Canadiens and the Senators, who will face each other six times in total. Montreal captured the first four games of last season's series, including two shootout victories, while Ottawa won the last two.
Big Story --
Saturday's game marks Alex Kovalev
's return to Montreal after he signed as a free agent with the Senators. The popular former Hab was quite vocal after signing with Ottawa that he would have preferred to stay with Montreal and would still like to finish his career with the Canadiens. Kovalev faced Montreal in the preseason and recorded a goal and an assist in the Sens' 6-1 win on Sept. 19 in Ottawa.
"It could be some good moments, it could be some bad moments," Kovalev said. "It could be boos, it could be happy. But I just have to not forget that I still have to play a hockey game and I'm not playing for Montreal anymore, I'm playing for Ottawa. I'm just trying to focus on the game. I know it's going to be hard but I'm just going to try to get the win."
After falling to the Penguins, 4-1, on Monday, the Senators rebounded with a big 7-1 win over the Lightning on Thursday. The Senators outshot the Lightning 35-17 and Milan Michalek
recorded his first NHL hat trick. The left wing was acquired in a trade from the Sharks for the disgruntled Dany Heatley and has been playing alongside center Jason Spezza
"Obviously, we played good, but they didn't have a great game today," said captain Daniel Alfredsson
, who had three assists against Tampa. "We get up a couple fairly early and they have to force it and go on the offense, which opens things up. It's a big confidence boost for us, but it's one of those games that kind of got a little bit out of hand for them."
The Canadiens are currently in a slump with four straight losses after opening the season strong with two wins. In the most recent loss, their home opener, the Canadiens outshot the Avalanche 31-23, but yielded the go-ahead goal midway though the third and lost 3-2. Coach Jacques Martin shuffled his lines at practice Friday, putting Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta on the first line.
"I don't think we're doing enough to win games," said Cammalleri, who is still without a goal as a Canadien. "I don't think we should leave things to chance. You don't want to win because you could have won, you want to win because you definitely should have won."
Who's Hot --
Tomas Plekanec has been on fire as of late and leads the Habs with six points. The Czech center had a goal and an assist in Montreal's loss to the Avalanche. Paul Mara and Cammalleri follow with four assists each. Alfredsson leads the Senators with seven points, while left wing Jarkko Ruutu
follows with five points. Michalek leads the Sens with 23 shots and four goals.
Injury Report --
Defenseman Filip Kuba
is out with a lower-body injury, while Jesse Winchester
is on injured reserve with a right knee injury. Peter Regin
, with an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision.
Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov is out until February while he recuperates from his severed ankle tendons and Ryan O'Byrne is expected to miss at least another four weeks with a knee injury. Glen Metropolit is day-to-day with bruised ribs.
Stat Pack --
Of the six games played between the two clubs last season, all but one of the game-winning goals were scored by players who are no longer with their respective clubs. Christopher Higgins, Alex Tanguay, Patrice Brisebois and Dany Heatley accounted for four of them, while Kovalev had the shootout winner for Montreal on Jan. 17. Daniel Alfredsson
, the only player still with his team, tallied on March 19 in the Sens' 5-4 win.
Puck Drop --
Montreal-Ottawa games are always an emotional affair, with or without the return of "L'Artiste". The Canadiens, however, will try to ignore Kovalev and their closest geographical rivals as they seek a home win for their fans and try to quell their four-game losing streak.
-- Magalie Lafrenière, NHL.com