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Game day Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Montreal Canadiens come to town, and my goodness have they had a good start to the season

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Opponent

The Montreal Canadiens come to the 'Burgh tonight boasting the best record in the league to date for the 2015-16 at 13-2-1. They also have score 59 goals (most in the NHL, an an impressive 3.68 per game) to go along with only allowing 29 for a league best +30 goal differential.

And they've done all this despite last year's MVP, Carey Price, being on the shelf since October 29th, and out for at least another week. The Habs are a remarkable 4-0-1 in the five games without Price.

All things told, if they gave out the Stanley Cup in the first 6 weeks of the season, Montreal probably is having a parade right now. But, of course, they do not do that so we will wait and see.

Television: NBC Sports (It's Rivalry Night!  Wait, we're rivals?)

Radio: 105.9 The X in Pittsburgh, also streaming on pittsburghpenguins.com

SB NHL Blog : Eyes On The Prize

MTL vs. PGH this year: Montreal beat the Pens 3-2 on October 13th, to drop the Pens to 0-3-0 on the season. Kris Letang and Beau Bennett scored goals for Pittsburgh (and Bennett injured himself on the ensuing celebration). The Pens allowed 2 goals to Max Pacioretty and Tomas Fleischmann scored the eventual game winner in the 3rd period to break a 2-2 tie. Price stopped 31/33 shots (.939%) in the win, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27/30 (.900%) in the loss.

Keys to the Game

Pile 'em up on Condon - With Price out, the Habs have gone exclusively with 25 year old Mike Condon, who had exactly 0 NHL minutes before this season. Condon has been off to an Andrew Hammond or Johan Hedberg-esque NHL start with a 6-0-1 record and unreal .940 save % that's even better than Price's early season .936. Needless to say, Condon won't stay this hot forever, but he's clearly in a nice groove right now. If the Pens can "make the clock strike midnight" on this Cinderella, they could bring him crashing back to Earth. Score a couple early and this game opens up big-time.

Key in on MaxPac - Pacioretty killed the Pens last month and his line has scored 21 of Montreal's 59 goals of the season. It's easier said than done, but Pittsburgh has to find a way to neutralize the high-powered first line of the Canadiens to have a chance at winning, and MaxPac is the engine that makes that line go.

Win at 5 on 5 - Montreal has the #3 power play (27.2%) and #2 penalty kill (88.9%) in the league so far this season. It will be imperative for the Penguins to be better at even strength, because they probably won't be winning the special teams battle. So much of the game is 5v5 these days anyways, and this ties into the top point as well- score early at ES and then go from there. Trading a lot of chances and power plays with Montreal is not a recipe to take 2 points tonight.

Expected Montreal Lines

Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Devante Smith-Pelley

Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Paul Byron - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Flynn

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Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry

Nathan Beaulieu - Tom Gilbert

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Mike Condon / Dustin Tokarski

Infographic

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