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Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Montreal Canadiens take on Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL’s oldest rivalry

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One of the most heated rivalries in professional sports takes place on Nov. 20th as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Montreal to take on the Canadiens in an NHL matchup at the Bell Centre. Montreal and Toronto met on the opening night of the NHL back in 1917 and have been going at it hard and heavy ever since. This will be their 775th meeting overall and 704th during the regular season.

The Leafs got off to a fast start with a 4-0 record, but then lost eight in a row before winning their last two games this week, 5-4 over Nashville and 3-1 over New Jersey. They also beat Montreal 3-2 in the season opener. They’re without winger Colby Armstrong, who has a hand injury, goalie JS Giguere, with a groin problem, and captain Dion Phaneuf who suffered a deep cut in the leg by a skate blade. Forward Nazim Kadri and defenceman Keith Aulie were called up from the Toronto Marlboros of the AHL and Kadri has three assists in his first three games.

The Leafs power play is hot at the moment with six goals in their last two games. Winger Kris Versteeg, who was acquired from Chicago, has three of them. Jonas Gustavsson has taken over the goaltending duties.

Montreal has been playing well even though they seem to blow hot and cold. They’ve been shutout a couple of times recently, including their last game 3-0 against Nashville, but they’ve also recorded a couple of shutouts. They’ve been getting fine goaltending from Carey Price and he might need to be hot if the Leafs continue to be hot on the power play. However, they’ll be missing defenceman Andrei Markov due to a long-term injury.

Gustavsson was excellent in net for the Leafs against New Jersey and this could very well end up being a goaltending battle. However, if the fans really get into it as they usually do, we could see the goal lights being lit up several times. There’s usually a healthy crowd of a few thousand leafs fans when the club travels to Montreal and this often spurs them on.

Montreal sits in first place in the Northeast Division with a 12-6-1 record for 25 points after 19 games. The Leafs are 7-8-3 with 17 points after 18 games and are tied for last spot with Buffalo. The teams split the season series three games each last season and were all close games. In fact six of the last seven meetings between these two rivals have been decided by just a goal, with several games going into overtime. This could be another one of those games.

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