Bonjour tout la monde! This evening, the Columbus Blue Jackets travel to the Bell Centré to battle the Montréal Canadiens. The Habs currently sit atop of the Atlantic Division; the Jackets are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The last game these teams played (not against each other), the Habs lost to New Jersey in overtime; for Columbus, it was a regulation loss to St. Louis.
Since it is the first time these teams meet this season, it is time to discuss the changes in Montréal. They lost veteran defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Mike Weaver to retirement; they dealt Brandon Prust to Vancouver. They also let Manny Malhotra walk to the open market. They signed Alex Semin and Tomas Fleschiman via unrestricted free agency; they claimed Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary; and they acquired Zack Kassian from Vancouver for Prust. In terms of their lineups for tonight and for the next couple weeks, they are without Kassian (suspension), Brendan Gallagher (broken fingers), and Carey Price (knee).
As for Columbus, injury problems continue for the young club as Markus Hannikanen is out two months with a shoulder injury. As a result, Michael Chaput has been recalled from Lake Erie. Also, Brandon Dubinsky is back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno
Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Brandon Saad
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
Gregory Campbell - William Karlsson - Kerby Rychel
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Ryan Murray - Kevin Connauton
Justin Falk - Andrew Bodnarchuk
Injured: Fedor Tyutin (nose), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Rene Bourque (upper body), David Clarkson (back), Jared Boll (foot), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder)
Scratched: Michael Chaput, Dalton Prout
Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Devante Smith-Pelly
Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise
Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Sven Andrighetto
Paul Byron - Brian Flynn - Christian Thomas
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu - Jeff Petry
Alexei Emelin - Tom Gilbert
Injured: Brendan Gallagher (hand), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Carey Price (lower body), Alexander Semin (lower body), Michael Bournival (concussion-like symptoms)
Scratched: Greg Pateryn, Daniel Carr
Things to Watch
1. Unpredictable Offense. Both teams have dark horses that can produce for their clubs at any given night. Montréal has proven all season long that the reason for their dominance is not because of Price, even though he is a reason. For Columbus, their offense is far superior than the defense they have. This shows they can score plenty goals. Plus, they have the second most expensive offensive in the league behind Pittsburgh.
2. Interesting Goalie Matchup. With Bobrovsky in net, it's no surprise for Columbus, but they are meeting Mike Condon for the first time, which means it may take a while for Columbus to put one behind him.
3. The Return. Brandon Dubinsky is back in the lineup for Columbus, which means he may be hungry to put one behind Condon. Also, he said he won't change his game, which means he may be the only antagonist on the ice, which Columbus missed during his absence, as well as his leadership.
Players to Watch
My players to watch tonight are players that Jackets' general manager Jarmo Kekalainen know well from his days in St. Louis and presently in Columbus.
1. Lars Eller. No surprise based on what I said above, but he is a good young player in a bottom- six role with Montréal.
2. Kerby Rychel. The youngster has had success everywhere he's been in hockey, including a run to the Memorial Cup with Guelph, and early success in both the AHL and NHL.
Enjoy the games tonight. More to come... Demain...