Jonathan Bernier will start his second consecutive game for the Leafs on Hockey Day in Canada after taking the 3-2 loss on Long Island this past Thursday. The Leafs will look to tighten up their early game play tonight against Montreal, the top team in the Eastern Conference.
"We're playing a good team tonight, we're aware of that," said Morgan Rielly. "We have to be playing well tonight, play to our structure and play within our game plan. We know what we have to do, it's a matter of executing."
Peter Horachek highlighted the battle down the middle as crucial to the game, particularly in the faceoff circle.
"We're going to need our centremen to be strong tonight," said Horachek. "Those guys are very strong up the middle, they're very skilled. It'll be a challenge. They have last change and they'll be able to match who they want so we're going to have to use multiple lines to play against them and everyone will have to be at their best."
Stephane Robidas will return to Montreal for the first time as a Leaf. He began his NHL career with the Canadiens during the 1999-2000 season.
"It's tough not to get ready for a game like that, the rivalry between these two teams" said Robidas. "Obviously we're not in a good position in the standings but it's still a big night for us. It's always fun to play in this building and it's always fun to play the Canadiens."
The Canadiens will make a couple of lineup tweaks from their game this past Thursday. Manny Malhotra and Mike Weaver will check back into the lineup while Jiri Sekac and Tom Gilbert will be scratched.
Carey Price is slated to start in goal for the Canadiens. He has allowed just seven goals in his last six starts and has a 14-13-1 record with a 2.74 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in his career against the Leafs.
"They're always fun games, it's a good rivalry," said Canadiens forward Brandon Prust. "It's one I've watched my whole life. To be a part of it is pretty special."
Another slow start burned the Leafs on Long Island this past Thursday night. A pair of early Islander goals put them in a 2-0 hole but they came back strong to equalize in the second. For the second consecutive game, their opponent had an answer for the mid-game surge and the Islanders took a 3-2 decision.
The Leafs will be looking to come out of the gate quickly tonight.
"We always get pretty amped up to play these games," said Rielly. "We're looking forward to having a chance to play here tonight. Hopefully we play well, have a good start and play well the whole night."
The Canadiens enter tonight's game having lost their last contest in overtime. They lay claim to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 and a 19-7-3 record at home this season.
The Habs stumbled against the Oilers on Thursday night, dropping a 4-3 scoreline to Edmonton in overtime. The Oilers overcame two Montreal leads and ultimately won the game on an Anton Lander goal in OT.
Tonight's meeting will be the second of the season for the Leafs and Canadiens, and the first since the season opener.
The Leafs and Canadiens have not met since the 2014-15 season opener where the Habs edged the Leafs by a 4-3 score at Air Canada Centre.
Tomas Plekanec scored a late game winner just a couple of minutes after Morgan Rielly had tied the game for the Leafs in the third. Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri had the other Leafs goals in the loss while Jonathan Bernier stopped 28 shots. Bernier's counterpart Carey Price made 24 stops to earn the win.
Rielly was named one of the game's three stars.
ONE TO WATCH
While players like Carey Price, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty typically steal the headlines with their play for Montreal, Galchenyuk has quietly put together the best season of his young career with 16 goals and 36 points in 54 games.
Having just celebrated his 21st birthday, Galchenyuk figures to be a staple in the Habs lineup for years to come. He is an immensely talented creator in the offensive zone and has consistently improved his two-way game since coming into the League. He has also displayed versatility in his game, playing both the wing - where he'll line up tonight - and centre, where he likely projects long-term.
With Galchenyuk currently slated to play alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher, look for the line as a whole to be a challenge in all three zones with a good combination of feistiness and skill in each player.
Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Canadiens based on yesterday's practices for both teams...
Toronto Maple Leafs
21 van Riemsdyk - 42 Bozak - 81 Kessel
26 Winnik - 43 Kadri - 18 Panik
47 Komarov - 24 Holland - 25 Santorelli
20 Booth - 23 Smith - 71 Clarkson
51 Gardiner - 4 Franson
44 Rielly - 46 Polak
55 Holzer - 12 Robidas
67 Pacioretty - 51 Desharnais - 22 Weise
27 Galchenyuk - 14 Plekanec - 11 Gallagher
81 Eller- 25 De La Rose - 60 Thomas
8 Prust - 20 Malhotra - 49 Bournival
79 Markov - 76 Subban
28 Beaulieu - 55 Gonchar
74 Emelin - 43 Weaver