5 Canadiens players who must bring their A-Game to help secure an improbable wild card spot

The Montreal Canadiens are quite a few points out of a wild card spot following the All-Star Break, but if a few players step up, they may contend.
Jan 25, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Sean Monahan (91) celebrates with
Jan 25, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Sean Monahan (91) celebrates with / Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
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A healthy Arber Xhekaj should be a force at the NHL level

The injury bug hit Arber Xhekaj earlier in the season, and he subsequently went to the Laval Rocket. But shortly before the All-Star Break, Xhekaj returned to the Canadiens, and he could stick around Montreal for the rest of the season if he keeps up his effective play in the defensive zone. 

Last season, Xhekaj showed us he could be a physical force for Montreal, logging an amazing 159 hits in just 51 games while pitching in 13 points, and 46 blocks. His average total ice time is still very low, meaning he hasn’t exactly earned the highest amount of trust, but it doesn’t mean he won’t prove himself to be part of this young core down the stretch. 

Further proof rests in Xhekaj’s possession metrics at 5-on-5, where the Canadiens have a remarkable 94.6 on-ice save percentage through the 19 games he’s been on the ice in the situation. This impeccable number is nothing new, as Xhekaj also gave them a 92.3 on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 the previous season, so he’s parlaying these numbers. 

His status ultimately depends on whether he stays in Montreal for the remainder of the season. But given his defensive numbers and relative inexperience, Xhekaj has yet to reach his full potential with the club, and he can inch closer to that from now until mid-April.