CANADIENS (0-0-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (0-0-0)
TV: CBC, RDS
Season series --
This is the first of six games between the two Original Six rivals. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs split last season's series, with five of the six meetings requiring overtime or a shootout. The Leafs won the last game, a 4-3 overtime decision, but the one point allowed the Habs to clinch a playoff berth. It was the last game of the regular season for both clubs.
Big story --
While the start of the season always brings great excitement, especially when it's played against your biggest rival, the suspension of Michael Cammalleri
has put a bit of a damper on this season's start for Montreal. A Toronto native to boot, Cammalleri was assessed a one-game suspension for a slashing incident involving Nino Niederreiter in Saturday’s preseason game against the Islanders. The left wing led the League in goals with 13 during last season's playoffs.
The Habs' biggest change of the summer was the trade of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for forwards Lars Eller
and Ian Schultz. The move left Carey Price
, who struggled at times last season, as the undisputed No. 1 goalie. Montreal's defense should be bolstered by the full-time service of P.K. Subban
. The fan-favorite was called up last season during the Canadiens' playoff series against the Capitals and made an immediate impact. The top two lines remain more or less unchanged with Eller sliding into Cammalleri's spot with Tomas Plekanec
and Andrei Kostitsyn
"It's great that I've had the chance to play all these different positions so far. It's helped me learn quickly where and how I can play that'll most help the team," said Eller, who will play on the wing on Thursday rather than at center. "I want to be there, I want to make things happen. I want to help this team win."
Maple Leafs --
The acquisition of Kris Versteeg from the Blackhawks over the summer will give Toronto a much-needed scoring boost this season. The Stanley Cup champion will play on a line with Phil Kessel
and Tyler Bozak
, the latter of whom was called up in January and recorded 26 points in 36 games upon his arrival. The Leafs will also benefit from having a healthy Kessel at the start of the season and great stable goaltending depth in Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson. The D will be led by newly-named captain Dion Phaneuf
, who was acquired from the Flames in January.
"I think every team in the League, their goal is to make the playoffs and we're no different," Phaneuf told NHL.com. "We're a very good, young team. We've got a lot of really good, young players and it's an exciting team to be apart of because we get to grow together and get to learn together and I'm looking forward to starting that off.”
Who's hot --
Kessel led the Leafs and the League with six preseason goals and 10 points, while Plekanec also notched six goals, but was a point shy of Kessel with only three assists.
Injury report --
Price did not practice Wednesday because of the flu and is questionable for Thursday. Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov
is still recovering from knee surgery that resulted from tearing his right ACL during the second round of the last season's playoffs. The All-Star did practice with the team on Tuesday along with fellow injured d-man Roman Hamrlik. Hamrlik has been sidelined with a knee injury since the start of training camp. … Toronto is without two defensemen of its own as both Brett Lebda (shoulder) and Jeff Finger
(undisclosed) are out, but skated on their own prior to practice Wednesday.
Stat pack --
The Leafs and the Canadiens also started the 2009-10 season playing each other in Toronto. Montreal won 4-3 in overtime with Josh Gorges
scoring the decisive goal. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan, who each scored a pair of power-play goals for Toronto, are no longer with the team.
Puck drop --
"I'm not going to try and pretend that I wasn't excited to start in Toronto. I've probably never felt this good going into a year, personally, mentally, physically, anything. I obviously have a personal connection to the city of Toronto so it'll be a hard one to watch, that's for sure." -- Cammalleri to TSN.ca