(File photo: John Mahoney, The Gazette)
On the eve of a new National Hockey League season, predictions abound about how clubs will fare in the 2013-14 campaign.
The Canadiens face a few new rivals in the Atlantic Division thanks to the realignment that takes effect this season. The new eight-team grouping includes their usual division foes like the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, but also the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.
The Hockey News put the Habs in fourth place in the Atlantic Division in its preseason predictions, behind the first-place Bruins, followed by the Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. A fourth-place finish would mean the Habs would need to secure a wild card spot to make the playoffs.
USA Today hockey columnist Kevin Allen put the Habs in the No. 4 spot, behind the Bruins, Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. But Allen also predicted the Senators at No. 5 “will be looking at the wild-card race all season” and project to be “third to fifth.”
A fifth-place finish for the Habs in the Atlantic Division was the consensus projection on TSN’s season preview show. Their consensus was that the Leafs, projected to finish in fourth place, would nab a wild card spot, with the Habs missing the playoffs.
The Gazette’s Pat Hickey predicted the Canadiens and Leafs will be in the hunt for the wild-card spots.
What are your predictions for the Canadiens’ this season? Are they a better team than they were last season? Have the off-season moves by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin given them enough of an edge over some of their division rivals?
We’ll publish some of your responses in Thursday’s Hockey Inside/Out section in The Gazette.
The Canadiens got some bad news at practice Monday, announcing that defenceman Douglas Murray has an upper-body injury and will be out 4-6 weeks. Defenceman Davis Drewiske is expected to be sidelined another 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, defenceman Alexei Emelin – still recovering from major knee surgery – skated for about an hour before practice with Graham Rynbend, the team’s head athletic therapist, and looked good.
Coach Michel Therrien said the Canadiens would start the season with only six defencemen since they don’t have a heavy schedule to start things off. After opening the season Tuesday night at the Bell Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690), the Canadiens play their next game Saturday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers before starting a four game road trip next Wednesday night in Calgary.
Here’s how the lines and defence pairings looked at practice:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Briere
Bourque – Plekanec – Gionta
Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
Moen – Prust – Parros
Bournival – White
Markov – Diaz
Gorges – Subban
Bouillon – Tinordi
You can watch Pat Hickey’s report from the Canadiens’ practice on Monday here.
(Video: The Gazette, John Mahoney)