Leafs Open Season Against Canadiens In Montreal
MAPLE LEAFS (0-0-0) at CANADIENS (0-0-0)
TV: CBC (HD), RDS (HD)
Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the Original Six rivals this season. Each team won three of the six games between the two last season, with the Canadiens winning the last meeting at home, 4-1, in the final game of 2011-12.
Big story: There’s really no need to look for storylines when these two teams meet, but there are several nonetheless as both the Maple Leafs and Canadiens hope to rebound from disappointing seasons in 2012-13 with new general managers beginning their first seasons.
Maple Leafs: The Leafs produced the biggest story of the elongated offseason when they fired general manager Brian Burke to replace him with his right-hand man, Dave Nonis. The new man in charge wasted little time putting his stamp on the team. He began by trading center Matt Lombardi to the Phoenix Coyotes for a conditional draft pick, retaining some of Lombardi’s salary in order to make the deal happen. He then placed expensive and underachieving center Tim Connolly on waivers Thursday to send him down to the American Hockey League.
Coach Randy Carlyle will use the space created by the departure of the two veteran forwards to give some younger players a chance to carve out a niche on the team, starting with Nazem Kadri, the No. 7 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. Kadri is expected to center a line with James van Riemsdyk -- Burke’s last big acquisition -- and another youngster, Leo Komarov.
After months of speculation regarding a potential acquisition of Roberto Luongo, the Maple Leafs will be starting the season relying on the incumbent goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens.
Canadiens: Coach Michel Therrien will begin his second stint with the club by coaching his 500th NHL game, and he is eager to see how his aggressive, high-pressure and up-tempo system will be deployed by his players.
All eyes will be on Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk, who will make his NHL debut skating with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta on the second line and should get some power-play time as well. The No. 3 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft showed exceptional skill and poise at training camp, but this will be his first real game situation at the NHL level.
New Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is still negotiating a contract with restricted free-agent defenseman P.K. Subban, and it looks all but assured that the dynamic, young puck-mover will not play against the Maple Leafs.
Injury report: The Maple Leafs will be without young defenseman Jake Gardiner, a severe blow as he is arguably the team’s top defenseman. … Canadiens goaltender Carey Price sat out practice Friday after he appeared to tweak his groin or hip during an intrasquad scrimmage Thursday, but Therrien said he will play. The coach could not give the same guarantee when it came to Plekanec, who has been nursing a rib problem throughout training camp, but Therrien said he "would be very surprised" if Plekanec missed the game.