As the Montreal Canadiens prepare to face the New York Rangers tonight in what very well could be a preview of a first-round playoff series, they do so without star forward Alexander Radulov. Radulov is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury and is out of the lineup tonight. The big winger blocked a P.K. Subban shot in the Canadiens’ last game, and while it was likely much appreciated by new coach Claude Julien, it also is likely the cause of his current absence.
Radulov has had a remarkable comeback season in 2016-17, his first full NHL season since 2007-08, after coming over from the KHL this summer. Criticized at first for giving the Russian enigma a $5.75MM contract, the deal has paid off for Montreal as Radulov has scored 15 goals and added 31 assists for 46 points, just 12 points off his NHL career-high 58 set almost a decade ago with the Nashville Predators. Radulov trails only captain Max Pacioretty in scoring on the Atlantic-leading Canadiens. Offensive depth has been an issue all season for the Habs, but they would have been in even deeper trouble without Radulov. The two sides are rumored to have already agreed upon an extension, but don’t expect an announcement until after the Expansion Draft.
While Radulov rests for the next few games in all likelihood, the Canadiens will get to see what their newly-acquired muscle can do. With a right wing spot opened up, former Colorado Avalanche bruiser Andreas Martinsen will draw into the lineup tonight. Also making his debut is Steve Ott, as he replaces rookie Michael McCarron in the lineup. The latter move may not go over as well as the former, but the new-look Habs will be interesting to watch regardless.