TORONTO - It's been 144 days, but the Canadiens are finally playing meaningful hockey again. It's the first day of the postseason in the NHL, and the Habs are marking the occasion with Game 1 of their Best-of-5 Qualifying Round series against Pittsburgh.
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Here's what you need to know about tonight's game
In the room
The Canadiens are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in an exhibition tilt, with Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron scoring for the Habs in the outing.
Claude Julien appears to have settled on his lines and defense pairings for the Pittsburgh series, which haven't changed since the team landed in Toronto.
Alexander Romanov joined his teammates for practice on Thursday, but he is not eligible to participate in game action. It would also be a surprise to see Alex Belzile back in the lineup. The forward left Tuesday's game early and has not skated since.
The Habs will ice a relatively young lineup against the Pens, with Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi centering the second and third lines. Barring any changes, Carey Price will get the start between the pipes.
Tatar - Danault - Gallagher
Drouin - Suzuki - Armia
Byron - Kotkaniemi - Lehkonen
Weise - Domi - Weal
Chiarot - Weber
Kulak - Petry
Ouellet - Mete
Nick Suzuki: The last time he took part in postseason hockey with the Guelph Storm in the OHL, Suzuki racked up 16 goals and 42 points in 24 games. He was also named MVP of those 2019 OHL playoffs.
Artturi Lehkonen: Lehkonen has built a reputation for being a playoff performer throughout his career. He finished second on the team with four points in six games against the Rangers in 2017, but he proved he was able to elevate his game in the postseason long before making the jump to the NHL. He previously helped Frölunda HC earn an SHL Championship in 2016, scoring 11 goals and 19 points in 16 games during that run.
Claude Julien on how the Canadiens and Penguins stack up:
"We know that they have an advantage [when it comes to playoff experience], but that doesn't mean we feel inferior. There's a confidence in our group that if we play the way we're able to, and we use our speed and explosiveness while respecting our opponent's strengths, we have a good chance of succeeding. That's our approach heading into the series."
At the other end
Like the Canadiens, the Penguins seem to have arrived in Toronto with their postseason lineup already locked in. Sidney Crosby will suit up on Saturday despite having been forced to miss multiple practices due to injury in week 1 of Phase 4.
The Pens, however, will look different than they did prior to the pause. Jake Guentzel will be back flanking Crosby after being limited to just 39 games this season.
Mike Sullivan announced on Saturday morning that Matt Murray will get the start in goal for the Penguins tonight.
Guentzel - Crosby - Sheary
Zucker - Malkin - Rust
Marleau - McCann - Hornqvist
Aston-Reese - Blueger - Tanev
Dumoulin - Letang
Pettersson - Marino
Johnson - Schultz
Sidney Crosby: 164 playoff games, 66 goals, 186 points, three Stanley Cups. Crosby is the undisputed leader among a group of experienced postseason veterans in the Penguins' lineup.
Patrick Marleau: Acquired at the trade deadline, the 40-year-old Marleau is motivated to win his first Stanley Cup, having played 191 career postseason games to date.
|MONTRÉAL || ||PITTSBURGH |
|5th in the Atlantic ||Standings ||3rd Metropolitan |
|31-31-9 ||Record ||40-23-6 |
|-9 ||Goal differential ||+28 |
|17.7% ||PP% ||19.9% |
|78.7% ||PK% ||82.1% |
On the ice
The Habs own a 1-1-1 record against the Penguins in 2019-20. Here are some highlights from the Canadiens' 4-1 win over Pittsburgh on December 10.
Video: Habs score four unanswered goals to beat Pens, 4-1
Came time is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on Sportsnet 1 and TVA Sports, as well as on TSN Radio 690 and 98,5 fm over the airwaves.