NHL Preview: Canadiens versus Maple Leafs missing key players to start season

Leafs and Habs missing key players.

maple leafs canadiens
May 29, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) makes a save against Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs both will be without their top players Wednesday night when they open the NHL regular season in Toronto.

Both teams will drop the puck on their season at 7:00 PM ET at Scotiabank Arena.

Habs and Leafs missing stars

The Canadiens will be without their brilliant goaltender Carey Price, who entered the player assistance program voluntarily and will be absent from the team for at least 30 days.

“You look at him as kind of this Superman and it’s really unfair to put that on him just because he’s a good hockey player,” Canadiens right winger Brendan Gallagher said. “But he does so many things right. He handled every situation he’s dealt with in this city, from the outside noise and the performances that he’s been able to put on the ice considering what he’s been going through. You appreciate it just that much more.”

Jake Allen will replace Price as Montreal’s starting goaltender, while Jack Campbell will start in goal Wednesday for Toronto.

Toronto will be without center Auston Matthews, who is expected to miss the first three games of the season as he recovers from wrist surgery.

“We’re taking it day by day and lots can change, but as of right now this week is probably out of the question,” said Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals last season despite missing four games with a wrist injury. “But you never know what could happen.”

Leafs have not forgotten playoffs

maple leafs canadiens
May 31, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews (34) and Mitch Marner (16) shake hands with Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) and forward Corey Perry (94) after the Canadiens beat the Leafs 3-1 in game seven of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Maple Leafs are still smarting from their first-round playoff series loss to the Canadiens last season after squandering a 3 games-to-1 lead in the series.

“It was pretty miserable,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. “Disappointing. Hard to take. It’s going to leave some type of scar given the expectations we created for ourselves. I think for us, it’s also somewhat of an opportunity to learn and reflect. Now there’s a lot of work ahead of us to get to where we want to get to.”

Toronto was the top seed in the North Division while Montreal was No. 4, yet it was the Canadiens who got on a post-season run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.

Among the players who are gone from last season’s Maple Leafs are goaltender Frederik Andersen (Carolina Hurricanes) and left winger Zach Hyman (Edmonton Oilers).

Long list of injured

The Maple Leafs will be without right winger Ilya Mikheyev for a minimum of eight weeks after he suffered a broken thumb that will required surgery in the preseason finale Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

In another twist, the Maple Leafs lost center Adam Brooks on waivers to the Canadiens on Monday.

With Matthews out, Tavares will be the opening-night center between Nick Ritchie and Mitch Marner; Mikheyev’s absence will provide an opportunity for Michael Amadio, who will make his Maple Leafs debut on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.

Mitch Marner left practice on Tuesday after colliding with Wayne Simmonds. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Canadiens defenseman and team captain Shea Weber is out for the season with foot, ankle and knee injuries.

The Canadiens will also open the season without defenseman Joel Edmundson (undisclosed injury) and center Mike Hoffman (lower body injury), who are both expected to return in the next two weeks.

Paul Byron, a key penalty killer, is not expected to return from offseason hip surgery until late December.

Montreal lost center Phillip Danault, one of the better defensive forwards in the league, as a free agent to the Los Angeles Kings. Left winger Tomas Tatar (New Jersey Devils) and center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Hurricanes) also have departed.

Among the players added by Montreal are defenseman David Savard, left winger Christian Dvorak, Hoffman and goaltender Samuel Montembeault.

The Canadiens announced Tuesday that they have agreed to terms with center Nick Suzuki on an eight-year, $63-million contract extension.

–Field Level Media