Canadiens vs. Senators
Canadian Tire Centre, Saturday, 7 p.m., SN, TVA Sports, TSN Radio 690
The matchup: A win over the Senators would move the Canadiens ahead of Ottawa in the Eastern Conference standings. That might have been an encouraging development a month ago when these teams harboured hopes of making the playoffs, but every win between now and April 9 means these teams face longer odds in the Auston Matthews draft sweepstakes. To their credit, the Canadiens haven’t shown any signs of tanking, but it’s safe to say they are no longer talking about the playoffs. The Senators go into this game seven points behind eighth-place Detroit after losing in Buffalo Friday night, while the Canadiens are nine points back. Ben Scrivens will start in goal for the Canadiens against the Senators, while Mike Condon will get the call Sunday when the Calgary Flames visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
Questions to answer as the season winds down: Will Alex Galchenyuk reach the 30-goal mark? He has set career highs for goals (26) and points (48) and the question of what position he plays seems to be settled with him at centre on the No. 1 line between Max Pacioretty and Sven Andrighetto. Is Mike McCarron in the NHL to stay? Stefan Matteau has the size the Canadiens are looking for, but is he willing to use it? Will Carey Price play a game before the season ends? Fighting may be passé, but is there room for Mike Brown’s toughness next season? Will the Canadiens have the chutzpah to follow the lead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have announced an increase in ticket prices for next season?
Karlsson leads the way one way: There’s an ongoing debate over whether the Senators’ Erik Karlsson deserves a third Norris Trophy. He’s fun to watch and is by far the most productive defenceman in the NHL with 13 goals and a league-leading 60 assists. But Karlsson is also a minus-3, he quarterbacks a power play that ranks 27th in the NHL and the Senators rank 27th in defence. Mike Hoffman leads what can be an explosive Senators offence with 26 goals, while Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan have 22 each and Zack Smith has 21.
Injury list grows: Defenceman Mark Barberio is the latest casualty for the Canadiens. He suffered a concussion during Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win in Buffalo. P.K. Subban (neck) is not in Ottawa and won’t play Sunday against Calgary at the Bell Centre. Price (knee) and David Desharnais (broken foot) continue to skate, but there’s no word on when they will resume practising with the team. Brendan Gallagher is out at least another week with a lower-body injury. Defencemen Tom Gilbert (knee) and Jeff Petry (sports hernia) are finished for the season following surgery. The Canadiens are also missing Daniel Carr and Brian Flynn with lower-body injuries. They both skated after practice in Brossard Friday while wearing track suits.
Looking ahead: The Canadiens are back home Sunday to play the Flames (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN Radio 690) and will face the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.