For the first time in recent memory, the Montreal Canadiens did not kickoff their season against the rival-Toronto Maple Leafs. With two games on the road, a decisive victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Habs now return to the Bell Centre for their home opener against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s matchup:
The Montreal Canadiens
The Habs have managed points in their first two games despite being on the road and outshot by the opposition. Goaltender Al Montoya, signed as a free agent during the offseason, was a solid replacement in nets while Carey Price recovered from the flu during the opening week of the 2016-17 season. Price was at practice on Monday but is expected to miss Tuesday’s contest, putting Montoya back in nets for his third consecutive game.
Other worthy notes on the Habs: With 2 goals and an assist through two games, feisty forward Brendan Gallagher leads the team in scoring. The Canadiens have scored seven goals in two contests, which is promising, but hints of last season’s spiral were evident early when the Habs were outshot 13-6 in the opening frame against the Senators.
Rookie Artturi Lehkonen scored his first NHL goal against the Sens on Saturday night. The Finnish-rookie made the team out of training camp and plays a strong physical game. Forward Andrew Shaw has yet to be suspended but if he manages another late-game slew-foot, it won’t be long before he misses valuable time due to an unnecessary play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
What should have been an exhilarating start to the 2016-17 season for the champion Penguins was dampened by the loss of captain Sidney Crosby who suffered a concussion on October 7th during practice and has yet to skate with the team. He is listed as day to day but there have been few updates as to the timeline of his return.
Still, even without Crosby, the Penguins haven’t taken their foot off the gas, going 2-0-0 to start the season, including a shootout victory over the Washington Capitals, thanks in large part to Marc-André Fleury’s 38 save performance, and a 3-2 regulation win against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, in which the Pens fired 45 shots at former-Leaf goalie Jonathan Bernier who started for the Ducks.
Other worthy notes on the Penguins: The Penguins opened the season with a three-game homestead at the newly-minted PPG Paints Arena (formerly the Consol Energy Center) that ends after Monday night’s contest against the Colorado Avalanche. They will playing in back to back games when the puck drops on Tuesday’s matchup against the Canadiens.
Evgeni Malkin leads the team with three points (1 goal, 2 assists). Matt Murray, the goaltender that took the Penguins to the Cup last year, is recovering from a broken hand, but Fleury has been outstanding in nets and boasts a .948 SV and 1.92 GAA through two games. Phil Kessel will be making his Penguins debut in Montreal, making it the first time of his career where he isn’t playing for a hated rival. Though knowing the Bell Centre, chances are he will still hear some jeers from the crowd.