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Here are five things you should know about Saturday’s game between the Canadiens (21-21-7) and Vegas Golden Knights (25-19-6) at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Ko-vy! Ko-vy! When Marc Bergevin signed free-agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk on Jan. 3, the Canadiens’ GM said it was a “no-risk” move and added he wasn’t worried the pace of play would be too fast for the 36-year-old. “He’s been skating,” Bergevin said. “It’s a mindset. He knows it’s his last chance. We have nothing to lose … we’ll see where he’s at, where his game’s at and we’ll decide. Like I said, it’s going to be up to him.” In his first seven games with the Canadiens, Kovalchuk has 3-4-7 totals, including two goals in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia. He has been involved in 44 per cent of the Canadiens’ 16 goals since joining the team.
Ca-rey! Ca-rey! Carey Price is on an impressive run, winning his last three games, including a 40-save performance in Philadelphia. In his last three starts, Price has allowed two goals on 114 shots for for a 0.67 goals-against average and a .982 save percentage, improving his season record to 19-16-4 with a 2.82 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
Knuckles Kotkaniemi: Jesperi Kotkaniemi surprised a lot of people when he dropped the gloves for the first time in his NHL career and fought the Flyers’ Robert Hagg in the third period of Thursday’s game. The 19-year-old Kotkaniemi was upset after Hagg checked Ryan Poehling into the boards from behind and ended up spending 17 minutes in the penalty box with a minor for instigating, a major for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. Kotkaniemi had only four penalty minutes in his previous 33 games this season.
Max is back: Former Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty leads the Golden Knights in scoring with 20-26-46 totals. Pacioretty has three more points than Tomas Tatar (17-26-43), who leads the Canadiens in scoring. The Canadiens acquired Tatar as part of the Pacioretty trade on Sept. 10, 2018, along with Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft that they then dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. Suzuki has 9-18-27 totals in his rookie season
New Vegas coach: The Golden Knights shocked the hockey world Wednesday when they decided to fire head coach Gerard Gallant and replace him with Peter DeBoer, who was fired by the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 11. The Knights won their first game with DeBoer behind the bench, beating the Senators 4-2 Thursday night in Ottawa. Gallant had a 118-75-20 record during his three seasons with Vegas and won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach in 2018 when he led the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup final as an expansion team.
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