Saturday, February 3rd, 10:00AM PST
Bell Centre, Montreal, Canada
TV: RDS, TSN2, FS-W
Radio: AM 830
Your Enemy: Habs Eyes on the Prize
The Anaheim Ducks will look to rebound from a disappointing overtime loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators when they take on the Montreal Canadiens during a rare mid-day showdown. The game begins at 1:00 PM local time, or 10:00 AM Anaheim-time for all you Orange County locals.
The Ducks played quite well against the Ottawa Senators but struggled to find the finishing touches on a lot of plays, ultimately falling 2-1 to the Sens in overtime. It took the Ducks a goal with 54 seconds remaining in regulation to even push the game to overtime to begin with, so it’s difficult to be too upset about them finding a way to at least salvage a point.
However, they now will turn their attention to a Montreal Canadiens team that is struggling on both ends of the ice, and quite frankly, a team that is desperate for some sign of life. The Canadiens have lost their last three consecutively, their most recent contest being a 2-0 shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Habs have been underwhelming all year long and have struggled to get any kind of offensive rhythm going, scoring only 130 goals this year (Tampa Bay leads the league with 183).
The Canadiens are quite similar to the Senators in that they are hoping to find any kind of a spark to keep confidence and slight hopes alive. The Habs are 10 points out of the 2nd Wild Card spot and looking at what appears to be a lost season at this point, but a win streak of 4-5 games could put them right back into the mix. However, they would need to find some consistency before that would become a reality.
The Ducks are still dealing with the loss of John Gibson, who left the game on Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins with an injury. Ryan Miller started against Ottawa on Thursday night and played quite well, despite the fact that the Ducks were unable to find a way to secure the second point. I would expect that Miller will once again get the start for this daytime game against Montreal, and with the Ducks looking to rebound from a disappointing offensive showing, I would also expect the play to be focused on Montreal’s end of the ice.
Montreal has been relying heavily on Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk to lead the offensive push for the Canadiens, and both have been largely underwhelming this year so far, earning themselves both a lot of rumors in the trade mill.
All Eyes on Me
The Ducks should hold a pretty significant matchup advantage against the Canadiens, even when it gets down to the 3rd line, centered by Adam Henrique. Henrique’s six-game point streak was broken on Thursday night against the Senators, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if he returned to the scoresheet in this game and made a key impact for Anaheim. Therefore, Adam Henrique will be the player that I will be focusing on for this game, as I expect him to be the leader in pushing the Ducks to find ways to get pucks past Carey Price.
Keys to the Game
Special Teams - It feels like this has become a key to the game in almost every preview that I write, because it always feels that the most recent game was so largely decided by the special teams units. The Ducks gave up only two goals against Ottawa, but both came on a Senators power play. The Ducks will need to hope for a better performance against the Canadiens if they want to walk away with the two points (or even better, be more disciplined at key moments in the game).
Take Advantage of Montreal’s Blue Line - The Canadiens have been struggling defensively recently, giving up 11 goals in their last three games. If the Ducks can get on the board early, they can discourage the Habs and make sure that a tightly played defensive effort is enough to earn them the two points. I wish I could say that I believe that they would continue to push offensively, but c’mon, it’s Randy Carlyle.
Antti Niemi - Antti Niemi will be getting the start for the Montreal Canadiens against the Ducks. He has appeared in only five games this season and started only three, with a 1-1-1 record thus far. The Ducks know Niemi well from his time with the Sharks and he’s been on the decline since. Taking advantage of the opportunity to not see Carey Price is pivotal.
BONUS KEY: Just Win - The Sharks just beat the Blue Jackets today and the Los Angeles Kings will be hosting the league-worst Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center on Saturday night. Plain and simple, the Ducks need to capitalize on these games against non-playoff teams. Just get the two points.