Here are five things you should know about the Sharks-Canadiens game Tuesday at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
The matchup: The Canadiens are coming off a successful two-game road trip with wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks. The victories lifted the Canadiens two games above .500 in the standings with an 11-9-1 record. They are within hailing distance of a playoff spot, which is good news unless you’re looking forward to a spot in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. The Sharks are in the running for a top draft pick. They are seventh in the Pacific Division with a 7-13-4 record after an overtime loss at home Sunday to Vancouver.
Monty takes the reins: Goaltending was the big question mark for the Canadiens going into the season, but it has ranged from adequate to very good. The very good has been supplied by journeyman Sam Montembeault, who is experiencing a breakthrough season at age 26. On the road trip, he made two consecutive starts for the first time this season and allowed only three goals over 125 minutes. He has a 5-2-1 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage, which is among the league leaders. Veteran Jake Allen, who will start this game, has a 6-7 record with a 3.61 GAA and an .891 save percentage.
Top line leads the way: It was fitting that the three players on the Canadiens’ top line — Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach — gave Montreal a 3-for-3 record in the shootout win against Chicago on Friday. The No. 1 line has been the engine that drives the offense this season and there has been an element of stability since Dach joined the trio a month ago. Caufield and Suzuki share the goal-scoring lead with 12 — and they are still ahead of Rocket Richard Trophy winners Alex Ovechkin (11) and Auston Matthews (10) — and Suzuki has 24 points overall. Dach has four goals and 13 assists.
News from the clinic: Juraj Slafkovsky, who took a hard check from Chicago’s Jason Dickinson during the third period Friday, was back on the ice for practice Monday. He went through the NHL concussion protocol after taking a hit to the head — there was no penalty on the play — and head coach Martin St. Louis elected not to use him after he returned to the bench for the final minute of regulation. He and Jonathan Drouin (lower body) skated on their own before Monday’s practice. San Jose goaltender James Reimer is questionable after missing the Vancouver game.
The other guys: There has been a lot of conversation about Erik Karlsson this season. A quarter of the way through the season, he’s the top scorer among defensemen with 11 goals and 32 points, which also ranks tied for third in the NHL scoring race. He’s being touted as the early favorite to win his third Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. Karlsson has also featured in numerous trade rumours, including one that would see him return to the Ottawa Senators. Timo Meier has 22 points and is tied with Logan Couture for the team lead in goals (12), while Tomas Hertl has 21 points, including 16 assists.
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