The Ducks might receive more “boos” than “bienvenues” when they take the ice at Le Centre Bell on Tuesday to square off with the Montreal Canadiens and conclude their season series in the inter-conference matchup.
Tuesday’s game will be the first stop of a four-game trip after the Ducks clashed with another Canadian club, the Edmonton Oilers, in Friday’s home game, which they lost, 5-3, despite holding three separate leads in a showdown with hockey’s hottest team.
In the Ducks’ prior meeting with Montreal, they were giving chase rather than being pursued, nearly producing one of their signature early-season rallies on Nov. 22. They trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in a game they later tied but eventually lost on Alex Newhook’s late winner. Mason McTavish, who missed the Edmonton game with an upper-body injury, scored two of the Ducks’ goals and set up their third in that affair.
McTavish should be back in action on Tuesday and goaltender John Gibson, who missed the third period on Saturday with a lower-body injury, should also be an option. Defenseman Pavel Mintyukov (shoulder) also seemed like a safe bet to draw back in after missing just over a month of action.
Mintyukov’s fellow rookie and lottery pick Leo Carlsson handled his first matchup against Connor McDavid and the Oilers effectively. His linemates also continued to flourish on his flanks, with Adam Henrique extending his points streak to seven games (11 points) by way of his pair of assists. Ryan Strome, whose line struggled against the Dallas Stars before the break, has three goals in three games since moving up to the top line, including two against Edmonton.
“Ryan has a high hockey IQ. He’s a great person and teammate, too,” said Ducks coach Greg Cronin, who had previously been an assistant with the New York Islanders during Strome’s stint on Long Island. “Playing with Leo and Adam has been good for him because they can match his IQ.”
One of Strome’s goals came on the power play in the Ducks’ sixth multi-goal effort with the man advantage this season. They had won in four of the prior five such performances. That meant they had just one goal at even strength, however, where Cronin is still looking for more of a shot mentality from his group, Strome included.
“He needs to continue to work on sustaining possession in the offensive zone and cycling the puck, as well as attacking inside ice and becoming a shooter,” Cronin said via text.
The Ducks pieced together a four-game points streak in which they secured seven of a possible eight points before the All-Star break and their subsequent loss on Saturday. Cronin said they’d like to be in the black on this four-game set as well, which will also take them to Ottawa, Toronto and Buffalo.
The Canadiens have lost five of their past seven games, including a three-game skid that saw them surrender 19 goals in two losses to last-placed Ottawa and another to the Boston Bruins.
A beacon of light in that same span has been 2022’s No. 1 overall pick, winger Juraj Slafkovsky. He has seven points in as many games, including a three-game goal streak and an active five-game points streak. Slafkovsky’s surge has allowed him to ascend to fourth in team scoring behind Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Mike Matheson.
DUCKS AT CANADIENS
When: Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT
Where: Centre Bell, Montreal
TV: Bally Sports SoCal