By Kyle Shohara
Stealing a line from Anchorman, tonight’s Ducks-Canadiens game can be summed with the following: This is a big one.
Not only because every game at Bell Centre is packed with 21,000 raucous fans, or because Anaheim and Montreal have been at – or near the top – of the NHL standings the entire season, but also because tonight the Canadiens will pay tribute to their former longtime captain – and former Duck – Saku Koivu.
The 40-year-old Koivu, who announced his retirement on Sept. 10, will be honored during a pre-game ceremony inside Bell Centre. As a member of the Canadiens for 14 seasons, 10 of which as team captain, Koivu matched the longest serving captaincy in Montreal’s history with none other than the late Jean Béliveau. Koivu collected 641 points (191g/450a) in 792 games with the Canadiens from 1995-2009 and made his final appearance in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2013 with Anaheim.
“It’s an amazing honor and I feel so privileged that they’re going to have a night like this for me,” Koivu said in a press conference at Bell Centre earlier today. “It’s really humbling not just for me, but also for my family and my parents. I was here twice with a visiting team and the reaction I got from the fans was something remarkable. It feels good.
“I’m thankful for the Canadiens organization and the Molson family for having a night like this tonight. I know it doesn’t happen often, so it makes it even more special.”
When asked what kind of reception he expects from the Canadiens faithful tonight, Koivu remained humble. “These fans have surprised me many times with their support and passion,” he said. “I hope it’ll be as good as when I came back from cancer and the first and last times here as a Duck. It’s a very different night for me. Being retired and being recognized for my career, I didn’t think I was going to be this nervous, but I am.”
CONSECUTIVE START NO. 20
If the morning skate was any indication, expect to see Frederik Andersen in net to start his 20th consecutive game. He’ll admit his last outing wasn’t his best, a 6-2 loss to Toronto in which he was pulled for backup goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. But Andersen has proven the ability to rebound from rough performances, and tonight figures to be one of those opportunities.
Andersen’s personal seven-game winning streak, which ended in the loss on Tuesday, was a career high and marked only the third time that a Ducks goaltender won seven straight team games in a single season. The other two were Jonas Hiller (Dec. 6, 2013-Jan. 12, 2014; 14-0-0) and Guy Hebert (Feb. 25-March 22, 1996; 7-0-0).
HEATLEY OUT, ETEM IN
Although Dany Heatley joined the team on Monday following a two-game stint in Norfolk as part of his long-term injury conditioning loan, the veteran forward will not play tonight. Heatley hasn’t played since Nov. 9 vs. Vancouver and is scoreless in four games this season.
Emerson Etem, recalled from Norfolk yesterday, will play, based on line rushes during the team’s morning skate. Etem, who has four points (2g/2a) in 21 games with Anaheim this season, posted three goals in five AHL games prior to Wednesday’s recall. Etem took Kyle Palmieri’s spot on right wing with Ryan Kesler and Matt Beleskey as his linemates.
Palmieri was placed on injured reserve after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s loss at Toronto. He is expected to undergo tests once the team returns to Anaheim.
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Rene Bourque-Ryan Getzlaf-Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Emerson Etem
Andrew Cogliano-Rickard Rakell-Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon-Nate Thompson-Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Hampus Lindholm-Colby Robak
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen
Max Pacioretty-Alex Galchenyuk-Brendan Gallagher
Jiri Sekac-Tomas Plekanec-Dale Weise
Brandon Prust-David Desharnais-P.A. Parenteau
Michael Bournival-Manny Malhotra-Eric Tangradi
Andrei Markov-P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin-Sergei Gonchar
Nathan Beaulieu-Tom Gilbert