|John Carlson drives on Carey Price in December.|
For the Canadiens, there are no real surprises, as bench boss Jacques Martin will roll with goaltender Carey Price for the league-leading 45th time this season. Price, after a rather up and down (but mostly down) season last year, has rebounded terrifically in Montreal and is tied for the league lead in wins (24). The Habs are still missing defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, both lost for the season with ACL tears, and sniper Michael Cammalleri, who has missed the last two weeks with a separated shoulder. Despite this rash of injuries, however, the Habs play smart team defense and certainly will not provide an easy target for the boys in red.
On the Capitals' side, Semyon Varlamov will start tonight's game after his 25-save shutout of the Canadiens earlier this season. Braden Holtby has not been recalled by the Caps, indicating that Michal Neuvirth is well enough to back up Varly tonight; certainly a positive sign. The good news ends there, however, as it looks as though Alexander Semin will not return tonight despite practicing fully yesterday. Bruce Boudreau did call him a "game time thing", but knowing Sasha, I highly doubt that he will play unless he is 1000% healthy. Semin has been sorely missed by the Capitals on the offensive end recently, and his presence will be key to their scoring for the rest of the year. To compensate, Jay Beagle has been called up from Hershey and will likely play if Semin does not. That means that DJ King will be a healthy scratch along with Tyler Sloan, who is now officially back on the active roster. Finally, Eric Fehr and Tom Poti both worked out on the ice prior to the morning skate with the Caps' strength and conditioning coach. Neither played will return this week, but they are improving and should be back within the next two weeks.
The Capitals will honor Dino Ciccarelli prior to tonight's game, which is the reason for the delayed start. The 2010 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame put up 112 goals during over his three-plus seasons as a right winger with the Capitals in the early nineties and is widely regarded as the best player in the history of the NHL to have never won a Stanley Cup. Puck drop for this one is 7:37-ish. Check back later.