MONTREAL - Here are five things you need to know ahead of Monday's game against the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre.
1. This is the Canadiens' first game since their bye week and the All-Star break. Prior to the pause, the Habs were riding high and had won four of their previous five games. In their last outing, the Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-4 in a shootout at the Bell Centre. Nick Cousins bookended his teammates with a pair of markers, while Ilya Kovalchuk and Joel Armia were the other goal-scorers for Montreal. Tomas Tatar downed his former team in the shootout.
2. Several Montreal players headed into the break on hot streaks, starting with Kovalchuk. The 36-year-old scored his fourth as a Hab and seventh of the season against Vegas, and also found twine in the shootout. He had four points (3G, 1A) in three games before the vacation. Phillip Danault, meanwhile, had one goal and four assists for five points in his last three games. Despite notching the shootout winner against the Golden Knights, Tatar was held off the scoresheet in the Habs' last game, but he had one goal and three assists in his two games beforehand and he leads Montreal with 43 points (17G, 26A) in 50 games this season. Carey Price, for his part, has won his last four starts, presenting a 1.45 goals-against average and .959 save percentage with one shutout during that stretch. Monday's contest will be forward Dale Weise's 500th in the NHL.
3. The Canadiens are resuming their hunt for a playoff spot, but things didn't get any easier while they were away. That's because while the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres were off, the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Florida Panthers all won games while Montreal sat idle. That means the Habs are still 10 points back of both the second Wild Card position and of third place in the Atlantic Division. They might get some help in their push, as both Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin were on the ice in full equipment with their teammates for Monday's morning skate, although they were skating in non-contact jerseys and are still a little ways away from returning to action.
4. The Capitals are currently first overall in the NHL with 71 points, and won their last three games heading into their bye week. On Monday, they'll have to do without their captain and leading goal-scorer, as Alex Ovechkin will be serving a one-game suspension after opting out of the 2020 All-Star Game in St. Louis. Ovechkin is actually the team's second-leading point-getter this season with 50 (34G, 16A), behind John Carlson (13G, 47A, 60P). Evgeny Kuznetsov rounds out Washington's top-3 in scoring with 42 points (16G, 26A). Expect to see Braden Holtby between the pipes for the Caps on Monday. He has a 33-18-9 record, 3.09 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 33 games this season.
5. Monday is Hockey Talks night at the Bell Centre, with the Canadiens dedicating the game to promote mental health initiatives. Habs players and coaches will be wearing specially-designed socks and ties in support of Do It For Daron, a youth mental health organization launched in memory of assistant coach Luke Richardson's late daughter. Fans in attendance are encouraged to head to the community kiosk located at section 104, where they can meet the players' spouses and write messages of support and encouragement for mental health patients.
You can also catch the game on TSN2 and RDS on television, and on TSN 690 and 98,5 fm on the radio. For tickets, click here.