Golden Knights at Canadiens
8 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS
Best-of-7 series tied, 1-1
Alex Tuch could move up to be the center on the top line for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at Bell Centre.
The forward skated between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty during the morning skate in place of Chandler Stephenson, who is day to day with an undisclosed injury.
Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said Tuch’s inclusion on the line will be a game-time decision.
“He’s similar to Stephenson,” Vegas forward Reilly Smith said. “He’s got a lot of speed. I think ‘Patches’ and ‘Stoner’ are used to playing with guys who come through the middle with a lot of speed.”
Tuch, normally a wing, has scored eight points (four goals, four assists) in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games this season.
“He’s kind of like that X-factor,” Smith said. “You can slot him in any position, and he’ll be productive.”
The Canadiens will try for their ninth win in 10 games. It will be the first time that a United States-based NHL team plays in Montreal in 15 months because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think our confidence has been high from the start,” Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said. “I don’t think you can get to a place where you feel too comfortable, too confident and you get on the verge of being too cocky because this game will humble you real quick.
“We’re a confident group but at the same time we understand the work that goes into that process.”
Teams that take a 2-1 lead are 89-25 (.781) winning a best-of-7 NHL semifinal series.
Here are three keys:
1. Canadiens must avoid distractions
Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme was not at the morning skate because of irregularities with his COVID-19 test results. He is fully vaccinated and will be further tested later in the day.
A similar situation occurred with the Colorado Avalanche the morning of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Second Round on June 10 when coach Jared Bednar was not at the skate because of an irregularity with his test results. Bednar was cleared in time for the game.
For the Canadiens, the key will be to focus on the game at hand and not be distracted by the Ducharme situation, as difficult as that might be.
2. Sputtering Vegas power play needs to produce
The Golden Knights are 4-for-34 on the power play (11.8 percent) during the postseason, 15th in the NHL. Those struggles have been magnified through the first two games against Montreal with Vegas going 0-for-6. Give the Canadiens’ penalty killers credit. They’ve scored more goals (four) than they’ve allowed (three) while shorthanded in the playoffs.
3. Score first
Montreal has scored first in eight of its past nine games and is 8-1 in that stretch. The Canadiens used that recipe for success in Game 2 when they built a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-2 victory.
It’s a trend DeBoer said the Golden Knights must change.
“We’ve got to get off to a good start,” he said. “It’s part of their identity. Anytime you are playing a team, you want to recognize that.”
Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Alex Tuch — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark — Nicolas Roy — Patrick Brown
William Carrier — Keegan Kolesar — Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud
Scratched: Nicolas Hague, Cody Glass, Tomas Nosek, Logan Thompson, Jiri Patera, Jack Dugan, Peyton Krebs, Jonas Rondbjerg, Kaedan Korczak, Dylan Coghlan, Carl Dahlstrom, Jimmy Schuldt, Dylan Sikura
Injured: Chandler Stephenson (undisclosed)
Canadiens projected lineup
Artturi Lehkonen — Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli — Nick Suzuki — Cole Caufield
Paul Byron — Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Josh Anderson
Joel Armia — Eric Staal — Corey Perry
Ben Chiarot — Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson — Jeff Petry
Jon Merrill — Erik Gustafsson
Scratched: Brett Kulak, Alexander Romanov, Tomas Tatar, Michael Frolik, Alex Belzile, Xavier Ouellet, Cayden Primeau, Cale Fleury, Charlie Lindgren, Lukas Vejdemo, Laurent Dauphin, Jesse Ylonen, Otto Leskinen, Michael McNiven
Injured: Jake Evans (concussion)
No lineup changes are expected for the Canadiens. … Evans, a forward, wore a no-contact jersey at the morning skate.