There was a time when a matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens inevitably prompted some sports talk radio type in La Belle Province to do one of those patented “gee, the Hurricanes’ attendance is terrible, imagine what it would look like in — cough, cough — a different city! Not saying, just saying!” takes. You could set your watch by it, at least three times a year. You’d get the take, the local reporters would lap it up, some “well-placed source” would say that the moving trucks were all but entering the PNC parking lot, then the game would be played and everything would quiet down until the next cycle began.
To be honest, listening to southwestern Quebec twist themselves into knots over l’affaire Jesperi Kotkaniemi is way more entertaining.
The Hurricanes’ six-million-dollar man makes his return to Bell Centre tonight as the Canes visit Montreal for the only time this season. The Canes have had four days off since last Saturday’s win in Nashville, and a win tonight would mark the first time they have started a season 3-0 since 1995, when they were the Hartford Whalers. That’s the only time it’s ever happened in franchise history, so the Canes are breathing rarefied air these days.
The Canes mixed things up late in Nashville, looking for a spark, and they’re going to roll out an all-Finnish top line tonight, with Kotkaniemi on left wing. Unfortunately, you’re probably still out of luck if you’re counting the days until Seth Jarvis makes his debut; he’s still on the outside looking in as of this morning.
Here’s how the Canes will look:
Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook - Derek Stepan - Steven Lorentz
Jaccob Slavin - Ethan Bear
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Ian Cole - Tony DeAngelo
Injuries and Scratches: Seth Jarvis (healthy), Brendan Smith (healthy)
It seems that media-circus style press conferences are de rigueur when the Canes and Habs face off. Once upon a time, it was Don Waddell calling an intermission press conference to angrily deny any rumors of relocation. This time, it was Marc Bergevin, Waddell’s counterpart in Montreal, doing likewise yesterday.
The topic? Oddly enough, Bergevin wanted everyone to know that he was interested in keeping his job. Normally this is a story on the level of “dog bites man”, but in Montreal, it’s real news.
Of course, nothing comes without scrutiny in Montreal, and all eyes will be on Kotkaniemi tonight. Any bets on what happens if Kotkaniemi goes off and puts on a show tonight? (Hint: the narrative ain’t changing.)
Here’s how the Habs will take the ice:
Jonathan Drouin - Christian Dvorak - Josh Anderson
Mike Hoffman - Nick Suzuki - Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli - Mathieu Perreault - Cole Caufield
Artturi Lehkonen - Jake Evans - Joel Armia
Brett Kulak - Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov - David Savard
Ben Chiarot - Chris Wideman
Injuries and Scratches: Cedric Paquette (healthy), Sami Niku (healthy), Adam Brooks (healthy), Carey Price (IR knee, leave of absence), Paul Byron (IR hip), Shea Weber (LTIR ankle), Ryan Poehling (head), Joel Edmundson (IR undisclosed, personal)
Referees: Ghislain Hebert #22, Jake Brenk #26
Linesmen: Jonny Murray #95, Travis Toomey #90