DUCKS (21-7-5) @ CANADIENS (20-10-2)
On Thursday night, the Canadiens will welcome the league’s top team to the Bell Centre, and celebrate the storied career of former captain, Saku Koivu.
Prior to the tilt against the powerhouse Anaheim Ducks, Koivu will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. The Finnish star served as the Canadiens’ captain for 10 of his 14 seasons in Montreal. Once the pre-game festivities come to a close, four of Koivu’s former teammates – Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and Max Pacioretty – will look to best the only other team Koivu suited up for during his 18-year NHL career.
Michel Therrien’s troops will be playing their second-to-last game of the calendar year at the Bell Centre before returning to the friendly confines of their building on January 6. Thursday night’s game will mark the fourth game of a five-game home stand, the club’s longest home stand of the year. The Habs have enjoyed the comforts of home as of late, picking up three straight victories, while outscoring their opponents by a 13-4 margin.
On Tuesday, Alex Galchenyuk registered his first career hat-trick in the NHL, leading the Canadiens to a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Max Pacioretty picked up three assists in the victory, all of which came on Galchenyuk markers.
At practice on Wednesday, Therrien kept his forward lines from Tuesday night intact. Dale Weise was featured on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Jiri Sekac. A few hours later, Sven Andrighetto was sent down to Hamilton.
Carey Price will make his eighth straight start of the season for the Canadiens.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are in excellent position atop the Pacific Division, nine points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. Bruce Boudreau’s squad continues to play well despite injuries to key players, including Corey Perry (lower-body) and François Beauchemin (finger).
On Tuesday in Toronto, the Maple Leafs snapped the Ducks’ seven-game winning streak that began back on December 1 against the Bruins.
Interestingly enough, Anaheim is just one of only three teams to boast at least 10 road wins on the year. The Canadiens are 12-3-1 on home ice.
Last season, the Canadiens topped the Ducks twice in as many meetings, posting a 4-1 victory in Montreal in October, before registering a 4-3 shootout victory in Southern California in March.
It is still unknown whether Frederik Andersen or Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start in goal for Anaheim.