The Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers had an extra day off from their holiday break. It’s back to business tonight, as the Canadiens and Panthers clash in Sunrise at the BB&T Center. The Canadiens hope to improve on their improbable start to the season with a strong push in the New Year. The difference for the Canadiens has been the acquisition of Max Domi.
Trading Max Pacioretty hasn’t made much of an impact, as they’ve played better hockey without him. Carey Price has also improved since hitting a dry spell earlier in the season. Without that bad rut he was in, the Canadiens would most likely be better than a 19-13-5 team at the moment. Montreal will have to try and survive without Price tonight, tough, as Antti Niemi will get the nod in his place.
Price will be out with a lower-body injury. He is going to miss the entire road trip, which lasts three games against the Panthers, Lightning, and Stars. They have an eight-game homestand coming up on January 19th, so that should provide them with a nice stretch to take advantage of.
The Habs hope that Price will be back to 100% by then, but his injury concerns have been well documented over the last few years. There isn’t much support behind Price in net, so the Canadiens have to pray that this isn’t an injury that lingers any longer than a week or two.
His play between the pipes has been frustrating at times, but he is still a major improvement over the alternative. Niemi is well past the prime of his career and is nothing more than a band-aid. He will get the nod in net tonight, while the Panthers are expected to go with Roberto Luongo. He is past his prime as well, but still has something left in his tank. Head below for our free Canadiens vs. Panthers pick.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Florida Panthers Pick
Niemi has appeared in eight game this season and not many of them went smoothly. He enters with a 4.14 GAA and 0.876 save percentage. The last time Niemi was in net, he got whipped around pretty good for 7 goals against the Wild on the road. It was the second time in three games that Niemi got hit with at least 6 goals against.
It was also the fourth time in six games that he gave up 4 goals. And if you want to find the last game that Niemi allowed less than 3 goals, you’re not going to find it this season. He’s given up at least 3 goals in all of his eight appearances in 2018-19.
Price was beginning to find his footing, and as soon as that happened, the injury bug had to sneak up on him. Montreal are 23rd in the NHL with 3.16 goals allowed per game. Expect that number to take a dip with Niemi starting every game during this three-game road trip.
Luongo hasn’t been spectacular this season, but he has saved his team on more than one occasion. He owns a 3.00 GAA and 0.905 save percentage, which is below average by his standards. A cold second-half and his numbers could suddenly look pretty bad.
The Panthers are 28th in the league with 3.49 goals allowed per game. It hasn’t been all because of sub-par goaltending. The blue liners have to step up and help out as well. Though, the Panthers have been sharp at home offensively with an average of 3.5 goals scored per game. With Niemi in net for the Canadiens, they should find it easy to find the back of the net. I like a 4-3 final here, which would result in a winning pick on the OVER.