Pacioretty guns for 40th against defensively-challenged Islanders
Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty, left, congratulates teammates Andrei Markov for his power play goal against the Florida Panthers during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
by Kristian Gravenor, CTV Montreal
Published Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:48PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 10, 2014 8:42PM EDT
Max Pacioretty will get his best chance to hit the 40-goal plateau tonight at the Bell Centre as the Canadiens (45-27-8) host the New York Islanders (31-37-11) in their penultimate game of the regular season, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
Pacioretty was stymied by Chateauguay’s Corey Crawford in his quest for 40 on a pair of solid opportunities in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday.
This time, however, Pacioretty will be facing the Eastern Conference’s weakest defence, as the Islanders have given up 262 goals in 79 games, the same total as Ottawa.
The game also marks Thomas Vanek's first game against his former team. Vanek notched 44 points in 47 games for the Islanders this season after spending parts of nine seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
Players to watch for the Islanders include Brett Gallant, who made his NHL debut in a 4-1 loss in Ottawa Tuesday. Gallant was fourth in penalty minutes in the AHL in spite of having played fewer games than the tough guys ahead of him.His first NHL fight saw him knock Senator Matt Kassian out with a single punch.
Cal Clutterbuck, considered one of the best bodycheckers in the league, might miss after leaving the Ottawa game with an upper body injury.
Islanders' leading scorer John Tavares will also miss with long-term injury, as the top centre job goes to the Danish Frans Nielsen, who has 25 goals and 29 assists in 77 games and a nifty 15.5 shooting percentage.
Kyle Okposo has shined with 69 points in 71 games leads the team, good for 18th overall in NHL scoring.
Speedster Michael Grabner remains a threat but his 26 points in 64 games has been a disappointment.
The Canadiens are hoping to stay ahead of Tampa Bay in order to maintain a home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which will also be against the Lightning starting April 16. The Habs are currently ahead by three points, while Tampa has one game in hand.
The Islanders have lost three straight and have 11 rookies in the roster, mostly from the Bridgeport AHL affiliate.
Thirty-eight-year-old Kazakhstan-born veteran Evegeni Nabokov, who is 2-0-2 with a 1.68 GAA over his last four starts, could get the start in nets for the Islanders.
Carey Price is expected to start for the Canadiens. Alex Galchenyuk will miss after suffering a foot injury versus Chicago.
The Canadiens wrap up their season by hosting the New York Rangers Saturday evening at the Bell Centre.