Canadiens at Avalanche: Five things you should know

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Canadiens at Avalanche: Five things you should know
© Provided by The Gazette Montreal Canadiens’ Christian Dvorak (28) tries for the return on Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonas Johansson during second period NHL action in Montreal on Thursday December 02, 2021.

Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Avalanche game at Ball Arena on Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, City, TVA Sports, TSN-690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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The matchup: This is the second of two meetings between the Canadiens and the Avalanche, which enjoyed a 4-1 victory at the Bell Centre on Dec. 2. The Canadiens are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday after beating the Dallas Stars 5-3 Tuesday. They remain last in the overall standings with an 8-25-6 record. After starting the season with a 4-5-1 record, the Avalanche is one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Colorado is 9-0-1 in its last 10 games and has a five-game win streak. The Avalanche leads the Central Division with a 28-8-3 record, which is the third-best overall and they also have the third-best home record at 16-2-1.

Montembeault gets a night off: Cayden Primeau will start in goal as Samuel Montembeault gets a chance to rest before embarking on what should be a busy two months. He has become the No. 1 goaltender because Carey Price is back to square one in his rehab from knee surgery and Jake Allen will out for at least eight weeks after suffering a groin injury last week in Boston. Montembeault had two busy nights this week. He made 48 saves in Tuesday’s win over Dallas and had 49 saves Thursday in Las Vegas. He became the first Montreal goaltender to face at least 50 shots in two consecutive games.

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Kuemper clears his head: Colorado’s No. 1 goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, took a bump to the head and had to leave Monday’s 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota, but tests showed he didn’t suffer a concussion. After taking a night off against Anaheim on Wednesday, he returned to the net Thursday and was sharp as he posted a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings, and he’ll start against the Canadiens. Kuemper has an 18-5-1 record this season with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

Power play shows signs of life: The Montreal power play is no longer last in the NHL. The Canadiens have scored a power-play goal in each of their last four games and have moved ahead of the Arizona Coyotes with a success rate of 12.8 per cent. Tyler Toffoli, who returned to the lineup ahead of schedule after hand surgery sidelined him for 11 games, played a role in the resurgence this week. He assisted on Christian Dvorak’s power-play goal in Dallas and scored on the power play in Las Vegas. Toffoli has goals in each of the two games since his return. Also on a two-game goal-scoring streak is Michael Pezzetta, who has three goals in his last four appearances.

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Avalanche an offensive juggernaut: Primeau will have to be at his best and he’ll need help from his defence because Colorado is the No. 1 offensive team in the NHL, averaging 4.18 goals a game, a full two goals more than Montreal. Nazem Kadri is on pace for a career season with 15 goals and 51 points. He’s fifth in the NHL scoring race, five points behind Alex Ovechkin. Mikko Rantanen is the team’s leading goal-scorer with 21 to rank sixth in the NHL and has 48 points. Nathan MacKinnon, who won a Memorial Cup with Dominique Ducharme and Jonathan Drouin in Halifax, has nine goals and 33 assists. Cale Makar leads all defencemen with 16 goals and he has added 22 assists. Other Avalanche players with double-figure goals are Gabriel Landeskog and André Burakovsky with 14 each, and Valeri Nichushkin with 10.

phickey@postmedia.com

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