Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Senators game at the Canadian Tire Center on Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, City, TVA Sports, TSN-690, 98.5 FM).
The matchup: This is the last of four games in the battle of Highway 417. The Canadians won the first two games, 2-1 in Ottawa on Feb. 26 and 5-2 at the Bell Center on March 19. The Senators were 6-3 winners in the most recent encounter at Montreal on April 5. The Canadians are coming off a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night and are riding a seven-game losing streak. The loss all but guarantees they will finish in one of the bottom two spots in the NHL standings. This is the second half of a back-to-back series for the Senators who were 2-1 shootout winners Friday in Columbus.
Sharing the load: The Canadians are also involved in a back-to-back situation. They are back home to face the Boston Bruins in a rare Sunday evening game at the Bell Centre. That means they will be using both goaltenders and Sam Montembeault is expected to start in Ottawa in what could well be his last game of the season. The 25-year-old, who was claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers at the start of the season, has a 7-17-6 record with a 3.78 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage. Carey Price, who was lit up for six goals Thursday is expected to face the Bruins.
Caufield closes in on 20: Rookie Cole Caufield scored a late goal in Thursday’s loss to the Flyers. It was his 19th goal of the season which is impressive because he had a slow start and he had only one goal when Martin St. Louis replaced Dominique Ducharme as head coach on Feb. 10. If Caufield scores in one of Montreal’s four remaining games, he will become only the third Canadiens rookie to reach the 20-goal mark in this century. The last Montreal rookie to hit 20 was Chris Higgins, who scored 23 goals in 2005-06. Newfoundlander Michael Ryder connected for 25 goals in 2003-04. Caufield’s linemate, Nick Suzuki, leads the Canadians with 20 goals.
Bad blood boiling: These teams have a history of hard feelings and the Canadians’ Brendan Gallagher added some fuel to the fire after the loss earlier this month when he accused Ottawa’s Tim Stutzle of faking injuries after being hit. Gallagher said he doesn’t expect any repercussions for his comments but Brady Tkachuk, who doesn’t need an excuse to throw his weight around, may have different thoughts on the matter. Stutzle was a game-time decision Friday but was well enough to play and scored the only goal in the shootout. Tkachuk scored the only Ottawa goal in regulation. It was his 29th of the season.
Help going the other way: For most of this season, the Canadians have relied on the Laval Rocket to provide reinforcements for injured players and now they are repaying the favor. On Friday, the Canadiens returned Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to the AHL club and also reassigned defenseman Corey Schueneman. They will be available to help the Rocket in its push for a playoff spot. Harvey-Pinard didn’t look out of place with the Canadiens Thursday but Montreal doesn’t need him because Michael Pezzetta is back in the lineup Saturday after serving a two-game suspension for a hit to the head on Washington’s TJ Oshie last Saturday.
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