Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Kings game at the Bell Centre Thursday (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).
The matchup: An aggressive forecheck and a return to form for goaltender Carey Price have been the key ingredients in a 1-0-1 start on the road for the Canadiens. Montreal was one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL last season, but they have produced seven goals in their first two starts against quality opponents. Price has a 1.98 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. The Kings are playing the second game in a four-game Canadian swing. They are coming off a 2-1 loss in Winnipeg Tuesday night. Canadiens head coach Claude Julien described the Kings as a stingy team that uses its size to keep opposing offences on the outside.
Plekanec must wait for milestone: Julien is sticking with the same lineup that earned three of a possible four points on its season-opening road trip to Toronto and Pittsburgh. That means Tomas Plekanec won’t be getting closer to his 1,000th NHL game. Plekanec, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent after finishing last season in Toronto, has played 998 regular-season games. Plekanec, Nikita Scherbak and Karl Alzner will be healthy scratches, while Jacob de la Rose has resumed practising, but isn’t ready to play. The Canadiens face some tough roster decisions when de la Rose and Nicolas Deslauriers are cleared to play.
Kovalchuk returns: Russian Ilya Kovalchuk is back in the NHL after a five-year absence and he scored his first goal of the season Tuesday in Winnipeg. Kovalchuk, 35, was the first pick overall in the 2001 draft and he walked out on a 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL. He expressed an interest in returning to the NHL and a number of teams made him offers after he led Russia to the gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics. He signed a three-year, US$18.75-million deal with the Kings. A two-time 50-goal scorer, he has 819 points in 819 NHL games.