When the New Jersey Devils drop the puck in Montreal on Sunday night against the Canadiens (6:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN), they’ll be aiming to keep their torrid run through the Eastern Conference going strong. The Devils are sixth in the East just a point behind their division rivals the Penguins and Flyers.
Leading the charge for New Jersey isn’t Montreal native Martin Brodeur, it’s superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk has shed the label of being an offense-only forward and has become one of the team’s most reliable and dangerous penalty killers as well as being a consistent goal-scoring threat. With the kind of play he’s putting on the ice this season, he’s got some people whispering his name in the discussion for the Hart Trophy.
Brodeur hasn’t been too bad himself this season, but at 39-years-old he knows that this could wind up being the last game he plays in his hometown, but he’s choosing not to look at it that way as Tom Gulitti from Fire & Ice found out. With Montreal unlikely to make the playoffs, if this season is Brodeur’s final season, expect him to pull out all the stops in front of his hometown. Stopping the Canadiens might prove tricky.
The Habs might be in Canada, but they have a team fit to play on Hockey Day in America. With Americans Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole, Scott Gomez, and injured captain Brian Gionta on the roster the Habs have a lot more red, white, and blue than they’re used to seeing in la belle province. Fine Canadian players like Rene Bourque and P.K. Subban make for nice complementary pieces themselves.
The Habs will be looking to play spoilers for the Devils as they’ve started to sell off ahead of the trade deadline by dealing Hal Gill, another fine American, to Nashville. Carey Price will have to be the guy that takes care of business there for Montreal in goal. Getting to square off against a future Hall of Famer in Brodeur should give him the motivation he’s looking for.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: