Pre-game reading: About all those empty seats at the World Juniors in Montreal

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— Up top, Oilers captain Connor McDavid speaks to reporters ahead of tonight’s big game against Columbus. (He’s more exciting on the ice than in an interview.)

— There were plenty of empty seats in Montreal yesterday for Canada’s quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic at the World Juniors. Which begs the question — are ticket prices just too high? Because they certainly aren’t cheap. “On Tuesday, the worst seats at the Bell Centre — the Blue level — were being sold for $82.50 per ticket for Canada’s semifinal against Sweden.” (Yahoo Sports)

— Here’s Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur on the attendance issues: “Coming back to Montreal so soon after the last time was a problem. Ticket prices were cut from the last time but they were still expensive, and Montreal has never considered this tournament the event that some other parts of the country do. This is a Habs town even more than Toronto is a Leafs town, and it doesn’t have Toronto’s money, to boot.” (Toronto Star)

— From Elliotte Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts” piece, a reminder that Jan. 1 brought more than a New Year. “Now that we’ve passed Jan. 1, teams can re-sign players signed to one-year contracts. Montreal went first with backup Al Montoya, who got a two-year extension. The most intriguing will be the Canadiens’ decision with Alexander Radulov, who has been tremendous. Vancouver has Erik Gudbranson, RFA, out with injury. You can expect Edmonton to take a run at keeping Kris Russell. Same with Toronto and Nikita Zaitsev, although he’s a restricted free agent. Word is the KHL would love to get Zaitsev back, but he likes it in the Ontario capital.” (Sportsnet)

— Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown, comes up with a list of five outdoor match-ups we’ve yet to see, but should. At number 1? The Canadiens versus Maple Leafs. Each team has already played in multiple outdoor games, but the long-time rivals have yet to face each other in one. Perhaps that will happen next season at Montreal’s Molson Stadium, the home of the CFL’s Alouettes. That venue is reportedly being discussed. (The Hockey News)

— Pierre LeBrun continues his series on the upcoming expansion draft, this time with a look at the San Jose Sharks. “The first decision San Jose will have to make is whether to go with the 7-3-1 (seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie) or 8-1 (eight skaters and one goalie) protection format. I bet that won’t get decided until after the season. It’s a tough call. If you go 7-3-1, it means you protect just three defensemen — Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and probably Justin Braun — which then leaves the likes of Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon, Mirco Mueller and David Schlemko among those exposed.” (ESPN)

Enjoy the games!