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L.A. Kings at Canadiens: Five things you should know

L.A. Kings at Canadiens: Five things you should know
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Montreal Canadiens Carey Price makes a save during third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Montreal on Sept. 26, 2018. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Kings game at the Bell Centre Thursday (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The matchup: An aggressive forecheck and a return to form for goaltender Carey Price have been the key ingredients in a 1-0-1 start on the road for the Canadiens. Montreal was one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL last season, but they have produced seven goals in their first two starts against quality opponents. Price has a 1.98 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. The Kings are playing the second game in a four-game Canadian swing. They are coming off a 2-1 loss in Winnipeg Tuesday night. Canadiens head coach Claude Julien described the Kings as a stingy team that uses its size to keep opposing offences on the outside.

Plekanec must wait for milestone: Julien is sticking with the same lineup that earned three of a possible four points on its season-opening road trip to Toronto and Pittsburgh. That means Tomas Plekanec won’t be getting closer to his 1,000th NHL game. Plekanec, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent after finishing last season in Toronto, has played 998 regular-season games. Plekanec, Nikita Scherbak and Karl Alzner will be healthy scratches, while Jacob de la Rose has resumed practising, but isn’t ready to play. The Canadiens face some tough roster decisions when de la Rose and Nicolas Deslauriers are cleared to play.

Kovalchuk returns: Russian Ilya Kovalchuk is back in the NHL after a five-year absence and he scored his first goal of the season Tuesday in Winnipeg. Kovalchuk, 35, was the first pick overall in the 2001 draft and he walked out on a 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL. He expressed an interest in returning to the NHL and a number of teams made him offers after he led Russia to the gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics. He signed a three-year, US$18.75-million deal with the Kings. A two-time 50-goal scorer, he has 819 points in 819 NHL games.

Injury sidelines Quick: Both teams are dealing with injuries to key players. Defenceman Shea Weber is out until at least December following knee and foot surgery. He’s joined on the injured-reserve list by David Schlemko (knee injury). The Kings lost starting goaltender Jonathan Quick after he suffered a lower-body injury in practice on the weekend. The injury isn’t considered serious, but he won’t play on this trip. Jack Campbell has replaced Quick and he stopped 37 of 39 shots in Winnipeg. Campbell’s backup is former Canadien Peter Budaj. The Kings are also missing Jonny Brodzinski following shoulder surgery and Dustin Brown, who broke a finger in training camp.

Opening night: Fans are advised to arrive at the Bell Centre earlier than usual because the home opener offers an opportunity to introduce this season’s roster and to engage in a little nostalgia, especially for fans who are old enough to remember the last Stanley Cup win in 1993. A large group of players from that team will be on hand along with coach Jacques Demers, general manager Serge Savard and team president Ronald Corey. One notable absentee is Conn Smythe winner Patrick Roy. The Hall of Fame goaltender is busy coaching the Quebec Remparts. The ceremony begins at 7:20 p.m. with the puck drop scheduled for 7:48.
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