The Canadiens and the Blue Jackets are part of a three-way battle for the two wild-card positions in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Blue Jackets game at Nationwide Arena on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN-690 Radio).
This game is crucial: The Canadiens and the Blue Jackets are part of a three-way battle for the two wild-card positions in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Montreal holds the second wild-card spot with 90 points. The Habs are two points ahead of the Blue Jackets, but Columbus has played one fewer game. The other team in the mix is Carolina, which has 91 points, and the Hurricanes also hold a game in hand on Montreal. There will be some scoreboard watching as the Hurricanes are home to Metropolitan Division leader Washington.
Take the under: Don’t expect a high-scoring affair because this game features two of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL in former Vézina Trophy winners Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky. Price, who is coming off a 33-save performance in the Canadiens’ 6-1 win over Florida Tuesday, has allowed only 13 goals in his last eight starts. Bobrovsky, who was the subject of a lot of speculation at the trade deadline, has been on an even more impressive run. Columbus shut out the Islanders 4-0 Tuesday and it was Bobrovsky’s second consecutive shutout and his third in four games. He is tied with Marc-André Fleury for the league lead in shutouts, with eight.
Canadiens win Tatar trade: After some early problems, Max Pacioretty is having a fine season (22 goals, 17 assists) in Las Vegas, but there’s a good argument to be made that the Canadiens won the trade that brought Tomas Tatar to Montreal. We’ll have to wait to see whether GM Marc Bergevin was right when he declared junior scoring machine Nick Suzuki was the key to the deal, but Tatar has shown his value. He scored two goals and added an assist Tuesday to boost his season total to a career-high 57 points. More importantly, he has shown a willingness to go into dirty areas and he has a plus-24 rating, while Pacioretty is minus-11.
Injury update: Paul Byron did not accompany the team to Columbus. The speedy forward is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but anyone who saw Byron wobble off the ice after being tagged by a MacKenzie Weegar uppercut Tuesday knows that he’s suffering from a major concussion and is more like week-to-week. Dale Weise, who has been a healthy scratch for the past eight games, is the likely replacement. Matthew Peca, Charles Hudon and Nicolas Deslauriers are the other options.
Jackets need more from Duchene: The Blue Jackets went all-in at the trade deadline when they acquired Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid for a playoff push. McQuaid has filled in for the injured Ryan Murray, but did anyone expect Dzingel to produce more points than Duchene? Dzingel has three goals and six assists in 15 games, while Duchene, who had 58 points in 50 games with Ottawa, has only three goals and five assists in 17 games. The Jackets’ leading scorer is Artemi Panarin with 26 goals and 78 points. Bobrovsky, Duchene and Panarin are all eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.