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Preseason Preview Game 5 — Canadiens for the last time

Not that we’re tired of them, no, not at all.

New York Islanders v Boston Bruins - Game Two
It’s not really a Nick Ritchie audition, he seems to already have the job nailed down. For now.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montréal Canadiens

7 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena, TSN 2 & 4, RDS
Opponent’s site: Eyes on the Prize

Them

New Montréal goalie Samuel Montembeault is set to get the start against the Leafs. They claimed him on waivers from the Florida Panthers, although they haven’t absolutely said Carey Price won’t start the regular season, it sure looks that way.

Ryan Poehling, noted Leafs killer, is also set to be in the game. The rest of their lineup is here:

Canadiens Lines

LW C RW
LW C RW
73 - Tyler Toffoli 14 - Nick Suzuki 92 - Jonathan Drouin
40 - Joel Armia 71 - Jake Evans 11 - Brendan Gallagher
62 - Artturi Lehkonen 25 - Ryan Poehling 49 - Rafael Harvey-Pinard
80 - Gabriel Bourque 85 - Mathieu Perreault 60 - Alex Belzile
55 - Michael Pezzetta
LD RD G
8 - Ben Chiarot 20 - Chris Wideman 35 - Samuel Montembeault
21 - Kaiden Guhle 58 - David Savard 30 - Cayden Primeau
27 - Alexander Romanov 36 - Gianni Fairbrother

Us

The roster for tonight has some interesting repeats from last night in Ottawa:

Centres Michael Amadio, Adam Brooks and Kirill Semyonov are all here again after playing last night in Ottawa. Pierre Engvall is not in the roster after his very good game, but other potential fourth liners like Kurtis Gabriel and (eventually) Semyon Der-Arguchintsev are here. This is last chance saloon time for Nikita Gusev, as well.

Based on yesterday’s practice, this is a good guess:

Defence is not really the issue, but if those pairings hold up, I’m intrigued to see Timothy Liljegren play with Carl Dahlstöm strapped to his back. Meanwhile whoever gets that top centre job will sure look like the choice for fourth line centre, and if it’s Brooks, there is going to someone surprising cut from the team.

The Game

While this is a test against almost a real NHL team, it’s not this game that matters, it’s the next one, the last preseason game where we should expect to see an opening night lineup. There will likely be one substitution made for Auston Matthews, like tonight, and possibly some extra depth players for one more look at potential fourth liners.

This game is the audition for a shot at playing in that game for a few people. Notably absent tonight is Michael Bunting, who has faded a little in effectiveness as the preseason wears everyone down. I’d say this game should have been a contest between him and Nick Ritchie, but it’s been made so obvious that the top line left-wing job is Ritchie’s to lose, and that he’ll be given it to start the season to see how he goes with Auston Matthews, that Bunting is in a different class of fight.

Bunting, Ilya Mikheyev, Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall are jockeying for three left wing jobs. I include Kerfoot in there because he wasn’t played on Kämpf’s left wing last night for no reason, that line with Ondřej Kaše on the right side is already being sold as Sheldon Keefe’s ultimate flexible third line with players who can move up to other roles, and play in ways that meet the opposition’s style. I love this in theory, but practice and theory often don’t quite connect on this team.

Tonight is about centres, and it seems like the Leafs have flipped the script and have more depth centres than they need for the first time in a very long time.