NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, October 1st (All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (0-0-0) at Toronto Maple Leafs (0-0-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - One of the biggest rivalries in professional sports will resume on the first night of the 2009-10 NHL season, as the Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the Montreal Canadiens to Air Canada Centre.
Last year, the Habs and Maple Leafs split six meetings with each game being decided by at least three goals. Montreal has taken two of three and four of its last six in Toronto.
The Canadiens are coming off a disappointing season where they qualified for the postseason as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference only to get swept in the opening round by Boston. It wasn't exactly the ideal way to end a campaign that was supposed to be a celebration of the franchise's centennial.
Montreal will come into this season with a new head coach, as Jacques Martin takes the reins from general manager Bob Gainey, who served as the bench boss on an interim basis following the firing of Guy Carbonneau last March.
The Maple Leafs would've gladly taken the first-round sweep, as the club has missed the postseason in each of the last four seasons to set a new club record for most consecutive non-playoff years.
Both Montreal and Toronto come into this season with a slew of new faces and one player even jumped ship from the Habs to the Leafs.
The Canadiens said goodbye to fan favorites Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu, while bringing in forwards Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and defensemen Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek, to name a few.
Toronto's biggest signing came when it lured Mike Komisarek, one of the league's best defensive defensemen, away from the Habs. The Leafs trumped that move later in the offseason when it acquired forward Phil Kessel in a trade with Boston. Kessel led the Bruins last year with 36 goals and is now expected to carry the offensive load for Toronto. Kessel, however, will miss the first month of the year due to offseason shoulder surgery.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, who assumed that role in November of last season, also made a series of moves to improve his club's toughness. That included the signing of Komisarek as well as the additions of Francois Beauchemin and Colton Orr.
Montreal is expected to go with Carey Price in goal tonight and the Habs hope the 22-year-old netminder will bounce back after a rough sophomore campaign in 2008-09. Price played in 52 games last year and went 23-16-10 with a 2.83 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
The Maple Leafs will give Vesa Toskala another chance at proving his worth between the pipes after the 32-year-old has turned in a pair of sub-par seasons following his trade from San Jose to Toronto. Toskala was 22-17-11 with a 3.26 GAA and .891 save percentage last season.
Toronto did sign Jonas Gustavsson as the backup goaltender and the Leafs hope his success in the Swedish Elite League can translate to solid puck-stopping in the NHL. Gustavsson, who is also known as The Monster, a 1.96 GAA and .932 save percentage during the regular season and then led his club Farjestads to the league title.
10/01 12:00:16 ET