It is a special Thursday night HNIC broadcast with the Montreal Canadiens taking on the rebuilding Edmonton Oilers. Montreal is coming off a 10 round shoot out loss to the Buffalo Sabres while the Oilers ended their 5 game home losing streak with a 4 -1 victory over the suddenly struggling Dallas Stars. Edmonton has the best ice in the National Hockey League which bodes well for the high flying Canadiens squad.
Tactics: The Price will be right!
Carey Price is a must start in this game. Edmonton ranks 28th in the 30 team NHL in goals per game average and Price is having an outstanding season. While I am never really an advocate of captaining goalies this might just be the matchup that I give this strategy a try. Do not hesitate to start back up goalie Alex Auld if the Habs decide to give Price the night off. Don’t let James Wisniewski’s -19 +/- rating scare you from inserting him on your starting five as the majority of his minuses came while he was patrolling the blue line for the lowly New York Islanders. Wisniewski quarterbacks the Canadiens powerplay and has a team leading 32 assists. Another player that I really like in this match up is Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty is riding a five game point scoring streak tallying 4 goals in 2 assists during this stretch. The 6’2 left winger has settled nicely into the Canadiens lineup since his mid season call up from the Hamilton Bulldogs. While it would be easy to insert Habs leading scorer Tomas Plekanec into my starting five I am going to take a flyer on speedy center David Desharnais. Edmonton has extremely fast ice and Desharnais can fly. My lone Edmonton Oiler starter is their first overall draft pick Taylor Hall. I really don’t like any of the Oilers in this matchup and am taking Hall for no other reason than I like watching him play.
First off the Bench:
Whenever you don’t start a teams leading scorer and they are playing the last place team you have to be ready to get Tomas Plekanec into your lineup. Needless to say Plekanec will be my first roster adjustment if I get off to a slow start. I’ll also be quick to add Oilers captain, Shawn Horcoff, if Edmonton’s compete level matches their opponents from Montreal.
I am staying as far away from whomever the Oilers start in goal Thursday and until Scott Gomez strings together more than a couple of good shifts I will be keeping him on the sidelines as well.
Starting Line up:
Carey Price (Alex Auld if the Habs give Price the night off)