BUFFALO - Just like the fall foliage surrounding KeyBank Center, so too is the Habs lineup changing on Wednesday.
Following on optional morning skate which saw 15 players hit the ice, head coach Claude Julien confirmed that Keith Kinkaid will get the start in goal for the first time this season.
Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference @ BUF
The switch between the pipes also marks the American netminder's first career start with the Canadiens - one of potentially two or so dozen this year.
"If your goaltender can play at least 20 to 25 games, I think that's reasonable and gives your other goaltender a little bit of rest," explained Julien following a season which saw starting goaltender Carey Price play a career-high 66 games. "Sometimes it depends on how everything is going, but those are the numbers you aim for, even if you're not necessarily going to hit them. During the season, you have to look at certain situations where you may have to ride a goaltender, but that's why as coaches you have to adjust along the way."
Kinkaid impressed during preseason, notably posting a 34-save shutout against the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 21.
"They never get enough credit for being in that role, because it's a tough role to be in. You don't play that often, and your practices become your games," continued the Habs bench boss. "Then when you're called upon, you're expected to really be good, to steal some points during the season, while you give your number one a break."
With one of the best in the game to lean on however, Kinkaid should be well prepared for the task at hand.
"Right now, he's got an opportunity to be with Carey, and he's probably already learned a lot from just watching him play on a nightly basis."
Four days after celebrating his 35th birthday on a game day in Toronto, forward Nate Thompson once again has reason to celebrate, this time in Buffalo.
The 13-year NHL vet is set to play his 700th career game on Wednesday.
"It's definitely a feather in my cap for me, to be able to play that many games in this League and still be playing," admitted the second-year Hab. "It's definitely a privilege, and yeah, I'm proud of it. I'd like to play a lot more."
Video: Nate Thompson on being set to play his 700th game
With so many games to choose from, the American forward nevertheless was quick to pinpoint his best one.
"Hopefully tonight. Hopefully tonight's my best game ever," cracked Thompson. "That's a good answer."
If the Habs celebrate the occasion anything like the team did on Thompson's birthday Saturday, coming back from a 4-1 third period deficit to eventually win 6-5 in a shootout, that may very well be the case.
Puck drop in Buffalo is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and the game will be televised on Sportsnet and RDS.