Montembeault Expected to Start as Panthers Wrap Up Trip in Montrealby Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com
Sam Montembeault is expected to get the start in net when the Florida Panthers close out their preseason back-to-back set against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday night.
"Sammy's been real good," new Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville said. "The whole group of goaltending [in training camp] has been outstanding. It's probably been the most consistent or the most enjoyable part, knowing that every one of the guys is solid every single day. Sammy's been great. He's probably excited to be here playing. Yeah, he's got the game tonight."
A native of Bécancour, Quebec, Montembeault will have a large support group in the building.
"There's going to be a lot of my friends and family coming tonight, "said Montembeault, who also played junior hockey in the Montreal suburb of Blainville. "It's going to be a great night. I think I have 12 people from my family, four people from my billet family in junior and then just a couple other friends."
Entering his third season in the pros, Montembeault, a third-round pick in 2015, is currently in a competition for the backup goalie job with the Panthers behind Sergei Bobrovsky. Making his NHL debut and appearing in 11 games with Florida in 2018-19, he posted a 4-3-2 record - including a four-game winning streak - behind a 3.05 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
In his preseason debut in Nashville on Monday, he stopped 18 of 19 shots (.947 percent).
"My preparation, getting into it and feeling comfortable about going into games," the 22-year-old netminder said when asked about his preseason goals. "I'm working on getting to shots, trying to find pucks through traffic and stuff like that."
Tonight, Montembeault is expected to be backed up by Bobrovsky, who inked a seven-year deal with the Panthers this summer.
Leading all NHL goaltenders with 115 total wins since 2016-17, Bobrovsky spent the previous seven seasons manning the crease in Columbus. In 2018-19, his final year with the Blue Jackets, he went 37-24-1 with a .913 save percentage and a league-leading nine shutouts.
The second half of a back-to-back set between the two clubs, the Canadiens scored twice in the third period to come from behind and defeat the Panthers by a score of 4-3 in the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville game at K.C. Irving Regional Centre in Bathurst, New Brunswick on Wednesday.
"A fun game last night that turned into a tough loss," Quenneville said. "It's preseason. There are things we're learning, trying to instill some schemes and how we're playing in the defensive zone, neutral zone as well. It'll be a good test again here tonight. When you play four games in a short amount of time, you get to know a lot of people quicker."
After that game, Quenneville described the top-line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov as "dangerous," as the trio combined for two goals and four assists in the loss. Huberdeau and Dadonov each lit the lamp once, while Barkov chipped in a pair of assists.
Last season, those three players combined for 93 goals, 102 assists and 195 points.
"I like how they move up the puck through the neutral zone out of our end -- neatly, cleanly," Quenneville said. "They pass the puck in perfect spots on the tape. That power play can be pretty dangerous as well. They move well together. They know each other's traits. They anticipate where they're going and how they're going to get there. They've been good all camp."
With those three players sitting out tonight's matchup, all eyes will be on Florida's other top forwards, such as Vincent Trocheck, Frank Vatrano and newcomer Brett Connolly. This will mark the preseason debuts for both Trocheck and Vatrano. Connolly, who inked a four-year deal with the club on July 1, recorded a goal in his debut on Monday against the Predators.
Vatrano said tonight's game will offer the potential new line a chance to build chemistry.
"First exhibition game," said Vatrano, who posted career-highs in goals (24), assists (15) and points (39) last season. "For me, it's about getting back in the swing of things, keeping things simple, making sure I'm getting my legs early, being physical and making the plays when they're there. Overall, just bringing that simple game and trying to create more chemistry with Troch and Conns. I think the more we play with each other, the more we can feed off one another."
According to Montreal's team website, goaltender Carey Price is expected to be between the pipes and play a full game for the Canadiens. The 2015 Vezina Trophy winner owned a 35-24-6 record with a 2.49 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and four shutouts last season.
Max Domi, who led the Canadiens in both goals (28) and points (72) last season, as well as defenseman Shea Weber (14 goals and 33 points in 58 games) are also expected to play.
-- In their last preseason meeting at Bell Centre, Evgenii Dadonov netted two early goals to lead the Panthers to a 5-2 win over the Canadiens on Sept. 19, 2018. After spending five seasons in Russia's KHL, Dadonov has registered back-to-back 28-goal seasons since re-joining the Cats.
-- Vincent Trocheck is expected to make his preseason debut tonight. Missing 27 games due to injury, the 26-year-old center tallied 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) in 55 games last season.
-- On the blue line, Keith Yandle, MacKenzie Weegar and Josh Brown are all also expected to make their preseason debuts tonight. Yandle, a 2019 All-Star, is coming off a season in which he set franchise records for points (62), assists (53) and power-play points (39) by a D-man.
-- Anton Stralman is expected to make his preseason and Panthers debut tonight. The 33-year-old defenseman averaged 21:53 of ice time over the course of his final five seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, registering 29 goals and 101 assists during 355 games in that span.
-- Jayce Hawryluk and Colton Sceviour are both expected to be in the lineup tonight. The duo, which saw some playing time together on Florida's fourth line last season, each found the back of the net once during Wednesday's doubleheader in Nashville. As a rookie, Hawryluk notched seven goals and 12 points in 42 games in 2018-19, while Sceviour had 15 points in 59 games.
- Sept. 17: F Patrick Bajkov, F Blaine Byron, F Aleksi Heponiemi, F Jake Horton, F Cliff Pu, F Sebastian Repo, F Adam Rockwood, D Brady Keeper and D Will Lochead were loaned to AHL Springfield.
- Sept. 17: G Joseph Raaymakers was released from his professional tryout.
- Sept. 15: F Matt Marcinew, F Greg Meireles, F Liam Pecararo, F Matthew Wedman, D Gustav Bouramman and D Dylan MacPherson were loaned to AHL Springfield.
- Sept. 15: F Cole Schwindt, F Henrik Rybinski, D Vladislav Kolyachonok and D John Ludvig were returned to their junior clubs.
HOW TO WATCH
When: Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Bell Centre - Montreal, QC TV: n/a Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); NHL App