Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Drouin – Lehkonen
Byron – Plekanec – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – Danault – Hudon
Deslauriers – Froese – L. Shaw
Mete – Petry
Alzner – Juulsen
Morrow – Benn
Jacob De La Rose, David Schlemko, Daniel Carr
Ales Hemsky – concussion, Shea Weber – lower-body, Andrew Shaw – lower-body, Carey Price – concussion
The Montreal Canadiens are a shadow of themselves missing their two elite players and team leaders in Carey Price and Shea Weber. But don’t blame the Rangers if they aren’t very sympathetic.
The Blueshirts have some of their top players sidelined with injury in Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider and Kevin Shattenkirk. Their franchise player, Henrik Lundqvist had the night off, playing the backup role. Rick Nash and Michael Grabner sat in the press box awaiting their new destination. (Grabner was traded to the New Jersey Devils post-game.)
That opened the door giving opportunities to youth. Two players, Noah Juulsen and Alexandar Georgiev made their NHL debuts. And neither one disappointed.
After an excellent season with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL, Georgiev got his first taste of NHL action at none other than the Bell Centre. Georgiev allowed two goals on 40 shots which has to be considered a positive performance despite the loss. The 22-year-old faced 32 shots by the Habs in the first 40 minutes.
Noah Juulsen has been one of the forgotten prospects by many Canadiens fans. When Juulsen made his pro debut last Spring during the St. John’s IceCaps playoff series, I felt confident enough to make the prediction that he would be in the NHL sometime this season.
Juulsen was very impressive at Habs training camp. Truth be told, he was well ahead of Victor Mete. But luck was not on Juulsen’s side suffering a fractured foot in the Canadiens first pre-season game in Quebec City.
Despite a delayed start to his season, Juulsen made steady progress in Laval. While not flashy, Juulsen formed a reliable defensive pair with Tom Parisi. Juulsen is very smart, a smooth skater, can be physical and has poise on the ice.
For his debut, Juulsen was placed on the second-pair with Karl Alzner. Playing his 600th consecutive game (fourth longest active streak) Alzner provided a veteran presence and communication that eased the transition. Juulsen responded with a solid game, recording two shots, four hits and a plus-2 rating in more than 17 minutes of icetime.
But the youngsters didn’t steal all the spotlight of this game. Tomas Plekanec had a goal, an assist and was 67 per cent at the faceoff dot. Jeff Petry scored again, his sixth goal in the last 13 games. With his 29th point of the season, Petry set a career high.
This was the first of a four-game homestand for the Canadiens. The Tampa Bay Lightning will visit the Bell Centre on Saturday.
▲ Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Petry, Noah Juulsen, Karl Alzner, Charles Hudon
▼ Jonathan Drouin, Joe Morrow, Jordie Benn, Paul Byron