CANADIENS (9-4-1) at HURRICANES (8-4-1)
TV: RDS, NHLN-US, FS-CR, TSN-HABS
Last 10: Montreal 6-3-1, Carolina 7-2-1.
Season series: This is the first of three meetings. Both the Canadiens and Hurricanes posted identical 2-1-1 records against each other last season.
Big story: When the schedule for the 2012-13 season came out, this matchup would hardly have been considered a potential battle between Eastern Conference powers. But strong starts by both have made it just that, with the Canadiens and Hurricanes riding three-game win streaks. But they are both missing big pieces for this game, with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price dressing as a backup as he recovers from the flu and Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner staying home in Raleigh with an upper-body injury.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are one of the top scoring teams in the NHL, sitting sixth in the National Hockey League with 3.15 goals per game. But in a statistical oddity, no NHL team has scored fewer first period goals than the Hurricanes’ six through 13 games this season, while just one team has allowed fewer than the Canadiens’ seven through 14 games. So it would be safe to say the Hurricanes strongly risk entering the first intermission trailing, or at best tied. They've only led after one period once all season. That could prove costly in this game, as the Canadiens are a perfect 7-0-0 when leading after one period this season.
In the absence of Skinner, Jussi Jokinen could be called upon to grab his usual spot to the left of Jordan Staal on coach Kirk Muller’s second line, seriously hurting the balance among the Hurricanes forwards.
Canadiens: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien spent a large part of his time with the media following practice Sunday providing injury updates, and this is the first time this season his club has had to deal with that inevitability.
Rookie forward Brendan Gallagher, off to a great start with five goals and three assists, will miss the game with a concussion suffered in the third period of Saturday night’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. But two other players to suffer injuries in that same period were at practice Sunday, and both Max Pacioretty and Alexei Emelin are expected to play Monday.
Gallagher’s absence should allow Ryan White to enter the lineup after being a healthy scratch for seven of the last eight games for some undisciplined play that greatly contributed to a couple of Canadiens losses.
Defenseman P.K. Subban also missed practice Sunday with a sore throat and his status for the game will be re-evaluated Monday.
Who’s hot: For the Canadiens, center Tomas Plekanec has failed to register a point in just four games this season and he has three goals and two assists in his last six games. Plekanec’s left wing Rene Bourque has two goals and an assist in his last two games, while his right wing Brian Gionta has a goal and two assists in three games. … For the Hurricanes, center Eric Staal is riding an 11-game point streak, with eight goals and nine assists in that span. Four of those eight goals were game-winners, tying him with James Neal for the League-lead. His left wing Jiri Tlusty has five goals and two assists in his last four games. Jokinen has scored in each of his past two games.
Injury report: Aside from Skinner, the Hurricanes should also be without defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason, who both missed the last game with lower body injuries, and neither player skated with the team Sunday…The Canadiens will be without Gallagher and Petteri Nokelainen, while Subban and Pacioretty will be re-evaluated Monday.