The Montreal Canadiens begin one of the most difficult portions of this season’s schedule tonight when they face the Los Angeles Kings in California.
The Kings 133 goals allowed this season is the least by any team in the NHL. I won’t go into great detail about the Habs scoring woes, but let’s just say they will not be getting a touchdown tonight. Los Angeles have a solid 18-10-3 record at home this season and are 3-0 since emerging from the Olympic break.
The Habs then head to Anaheim to take on the Ducks on Wednesday night. Anaheim is leading the entire NHL with 91 points in the standings already, a number the Canadiens will hope to achieve by the end of the season. The Ducks are 24-5-2 at home and will provide a very difficult test for the Canadiens.
It gets a little easier the next day, but not by much. The Habs head into Arizona to take on the Phoenix Coyotes on the second of back to back nights. Phoenix always have trouble scoring goals but have been squeezing out victories in low scoring games for years. A game between Phoenix and Montreal is sure to be a low scoring affair, and the Coyotes 17-11-3 record in the desert is mostly thanks to their shutdown style.
The Habs then finish off their grueling four game trip in San Jose when they face the Sharks on Saturday night. The Shark Tank has been one of the toughest buildings to play in for opponents for almost a decade now, and San Jose proves that with their 22-4-3 record as the host this season. San Jose have a tremendously deep roster at all positions and will be an extremely difficult test at the end of a four game in six day trip out west.
This trip to California will be quite a litmus test for the Montreal Canadiens. Their play has been up and down all season, but they currently sit second in the Atlantic Division and third in the entire Eastern Conference.
The Habs will be without their best player and goaltender Carey Price tonight at the very least and may have to make do without him for the whole trip.
The game in Los Angeles tonight will be the Habs final contest before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon. Even if they lose tonight, Montreal can not be caught by any teams from behind them in the standings before Wednesday night, and will therefor head into deadline day third overall in the East.
So even though this trip could make the Habs look like pretenders, they will certainly be acting like Eastern Conference contenders on Wednesday.