Preview: Ducks at Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are in a better place with the help of the youngest player in the four major North American sports leagues as they host the struggling Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. The 18-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi has scored in back-to-back games after Sunday's 4-3 overtime victory over Edmonton, but the third overall pick in the 2018 draft could just be getting started.
“I think he’s been better and better every game that the season’s been going on,” teammate and fellow Finn Joel Armia told reporters about Kotkaniemi, who has recorded eight goals this season. “Every game, every practice, he’s been better and better.” Montreal sits third in the Atlantic Division - three points behind Toronto and one ahead of Boston - as a 6-1-1 run also has vaulted it eight points clear in the wild-card race. Anaheim continued its freefall in the Western Conference standings with a 6-1 loss at Toronto on Monday and has been outscored 15-4 in two games since returning from its NHLPA-mandated bye/All-Star break. The Ducks have lost four straight and 16 of their last 18 games (2-12-4) but are just three points behind Vancouver for the second wild-card spot while in a group of six teams within five points of the Canucks.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, KCOP-13 (Anaheim), TSN2, RDS (Montreal)
ABOUT THE DUCKS (21-23-9): Anaheim was reinforced by the returns of Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves and Jakob Silfverberg after the break, but the trio has combined for one assist in two games. The Ducks are last in the league in scoring at 2.283 goals per contest with Silfverberg, who missed four games prior to the break (lower body), leading the club with 12 goals. John Gibson has yielded at least five tallies in his last three games, with backup Chad Johnson relieving him each time.
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (29-18-6): Max Domi (team-high 47 points) scored his 17th goal Sunday and has registered three tallies and five assists in his last seven games. Jonathan Drouin (39 points) scored in overtime against Edmonton, giving him two goals and two assists in his last four contests. Paul Byron (10 goals) left Sunday's game in the second period with an upper-body injury and was to be re-evaluated Monday while Andrew Shaw, who has missed the last 13 contests (neck), could return Tuesday.
1. Kotkaniemi has recorded all eight of his goals and 16 of his 25 points at home.
2. Montreal has killed only 6-of-10 penalties over the last three games while Anaheim is 3-for-7 in its last two contests.
3. The clubs have split the last six meetings, with the past three being decided by three or more goals, while the home team has won the last seven encounters.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 5, Ducks 2