Canadiens' Game Day: Habs and Flames Face Off at the Bell Centre

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2011

MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 12:  David Desharnais #58 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his first NHL goal with team mates 9L-R) Hal Gill #75, Tom Pyatt #94 and P.K. Subban #76 during the NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre on January 12, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The Calgary Flames, infrequent visitors to Montreal, make a rare appearance at the Bell Centre tonight.

This is a game that looks like a gimme for the Habs, at least on paper.  But, as we all know, hockey is played on the ice and not on paper.

As such, the Canadiens would be wise not to underestimate their opponents, a team featuring the likes of Jarome Iginla, Robin Regher, Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.

The Canadiens, fresh off of a 3-2 regulation win over the Rangers on Saturday night, sit in seventh place in the Eastern conference, eyeing a handful of teams that are just ahead of them in the standings.

With 53 points, the Habs are two back of the Rangers and the Bruins, both stalled with 55 points in the standings.

So, as with all of the games from here until the end of the season, there are a hugely important two points on the line for Montreal.

A few wins in a row could boost the Habs up the standings, while a few losses could see them slip out of playoff contention.

James Wizniewski is that hottest player for the Habs right now, with nine points in his last seven games.  Other players with point streaks include Tomas Plekanec three points in his last three games, and P.K. Subban who has two points in his last two games.

There is no word yet on which goaltender will start for Montreal but with back-to-back Monday and Tuesday games, expect Alex Auld to get one of the two starts.

The Flames are a team that has struggled all season long and currently sit eighth from last in the league with 45 points, 14th overall in the Western conference and outside of the playoff picture.

Despite their struggles, the Flames have three players who have five points in their last four games—Anton Babchuk, Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross.  While they have been getting some help up front, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has struggled with a 3.35 GAA and a .865 save percentage over his last four games.

Both teams are dealing with a number of injuries and, in the Canadiens' case, illness.

Last week it was Michael Cammalleri and Max Pacioretty who came down with flu-like symptoms, and this morning, it seems like Benoit Pouliot and James Wizniewski are the latest victims.

Both players skipped practice this morning and will be game-time decisions.

The Flames continue to be without the services of Steve Staois and Daymond Langkow, both on the injury reserve, as well as Tom Kostopoulos, who is still serving a suspension.

Special teams will be key tonight as the Canadiens boast the 11th best power play (19.4 percent) and the second best penalty kill (86.3 percent) versus the Flames' 25th overall PP (14.9 percent) and 21st overall penalty kill (80.7 percent).

With such a mismatch on special teams, I wouldn't be surprised if this game gets decided by a power-play goal or two.

Game time is at 7:30 pm, with the puck dropping around 7:40.

What are your predictions for tonight?


In case you missed it, don't forget to check out this past weekend's Sunday Shinny on the Team 990.