MONTREAL - When Blues goalie Jake Allen makes his first-ever start tonight at Bell Centre in Montreal, a very special fan will be in the stands to cheer him on.
Grandma Judy will make the eight-hour trip from his hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick to see her grandson play.
“I told her it’s a tough building to come into for her first game, the loudest in the NHL, so it will be an eye opener,” Allen said. “I’m glad to have (her) here and it’s going to be special.”
Grandma Judy will also be joined by Allen’s parents, Kurt and Susie, who are making the trip with almost 20 family and friends. Tonight will also be the first time Kurt and Susie see their son start an NHL game in person.
“My old man was a Habs fan,” Allen said. “I was in these seats probably ten times during those two years (in juniors), and watching a lot of games on TV, being around the city, knowing the passion and vibe that the city has for the Canadiens…it’s going to be an exciting challenge for me to be able to face them.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of.”
Allen spent two seasons with the Montreal Juniors in the QMJHL, where he recorded 39 wins. He enters tonight’s game having won four in a row and ranks first in the NHL in goals-against average on the road (0.50) and save-percentage (.980).
“I like the way he’s played in the net. He’s had some tough starts, some difficult road games,” Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He’s played against some top performing teams and had success. He’s really added and helped us win a lot of hockey games so far.”
“I’m definitely going to take it in when I’m standing there at the start of the game,” Allen said. “But when the puck drops, it’s all business.”
Blues forward Maxim Lapierre grew up near Montreal in St. Leonard, Quebec. He also spent parts of six seasons with the Canadiens, recording 47 points (23 goals, 24 assists) in 152 career games at Bell Centre.
Lapierre expects more than 30 friends and family at tonight’s game.
“It’s always fun to come back here,” Lapierre said. “It’s a special feeling playing in front of friends and family. Even for guys that are not from here, it’s special to see all the jerseys retired and everything. We know how much history there is here. I think for everybody, it’s a special night.”
The Blues have won five consecutive games against the Canadiens and have points in seven straight overall (6-0-1). The Blues have also won four of the last five games at Bell Centre.
Hitchcock said Magnus Paajarvi will enter the lineup tonight in place of Joakim Lindstrom.
Montreal ranks No. 1 overall in the NHL standings with 29 points. The team had a six-game winning streak before losing 4-0 to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Allen has selected three finalists in the competition for his next mask design. Fans can vote online at www.stlouisblues.com/jake until Saturday at noon.
The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Fans can watch live on FOX Sports Midwest and KMOX 1120 AM.