PREVIEW: Montreal Canadiens visit Ottawa Senators in matchup of struggling teams

Jan 16, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron (41) skates during warmup against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens’ concerns extend beyond having lost three of four games heading into Sunday’s road clash with the Ottawa Senators.

Montreal’s execution in a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday had coach Claude Julien expressing his disappointment in a couple of ways. For starters, his team was slow out of the gates in its first game in seven days. Also, a lack of discipline was a factor in Toronto’s three power-play goals.

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When asked whether some rust is to be expected after a lengthy layoff, Julien wasn’t having any of it.

“There’s nothing that should be acceptable,” Julien said. “To accept certain things is not being very committed to winning. We expect more out of ourselves, and it’s disappointing tonight. We had our legs. We had our opportunities. Had we been sharp mentally and really cut down on those mistakes, we could have won this game, but we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Since they started the season with a 5-0-2 run, the Canadiens are 4-5-0, with all five of those defeats coming on home ice. By comparison, they have a 6-0-2 road mark, which bodes well in this clash with the Senators, provided they can find some discipline and kill any penalties.

“It’s frustrating not being able to get the kills,” forward Paul Byron said. “At the start of the year, penalties were up, I think we were six or seven to start, and that’s not a recipe for success. Now you’re taking three, four a game, and at the end of the day, you’re on the penalty kill and you have a job to do. They had three power-play goals tonight and that’s the difference. We’ve got to find a way to be better.”

The Canadiens and Senators split a pair of games earlier this month. The Senators, who sit last in the North Division, have lost two straight, the latest a 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Maple Leafs on Thursday.

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Ottawa, the worst defensive team in the league, might also be without a couple of key players.

Top defenseman Thomas Chabot is questionable due to an upper-body injury, while backup goalie Marcus Hogberg is sidelined for about two weeks due to a lower-body injury. Chabot has missed two games this season, and the Senators have surrendered 15 goals in them.

Looking at the positive, the Senators have a few young players who are providing offense, such as Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle, but the NHL is more about winning than development.

“That’s great to have guys at the top of the (team scoring race), but I think it’s about winning,” coach D.J. Smith said. “Those guys, by getting points, are going to help us win. I think that’s one thing you can measure this season by, the development of these guys. And not only is it seeing what they do points wise, but there are a lot of older players in that (dressing) room that are here, helping them out on a day-to-day basis, to adjust and get better. A lot of things go into it.”

While Montreal’s penalty kill has struggled lately, the Senators have had that issue all season. Their power play is 28th in the league with a paltry 11.6 percent success rate, while their penalty kill sits 27th at 73 percent.

–Field Level Media