Canadiens D Guhle out day-to-day with upper-body injury
BROSSARD, Que. — Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis isn’t dwelling on the injuries to his lineup despite the nightmare he dealt with last season.
The Canadiens led the league in man-games lost with 751, according to mangameslost.com. This season they’re off to a rough start with second-line centre Kirby Dach already out for the season with ACL and MCL tears in his right knee and key defenceman Kaiden Guhle day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
St. Louis says he has confidence that his team’s depth can withstand the absences.
"We move forward, we don't stop what we're doing because we lost a player,” said St. Louis on Thursday at the Canadiens practice facility. “I know it's hard to continue when you lose players as much as we did last year, but the rest of the league doesn't care if we're injured, the league moves forward.
“I think we have more depth, more experience than last year, so I'm not worried."
The Canadiens’ announcement Thursday that Guhle was day-to-day was relatively good news considering the injury to Dach, but he could still be out of the lineup for several games.
Johnathan Kovacevic, Guhle’s defence partner in all three games this season, said “hopefully he’ll be back in a couple weeks.”
"It sucks. It sucks for me. Getting to play with him, being close to him as a friend, that's just something that you never want to see, I’m wishing him a speedy recovery,” said Kovacevic. "Unfortunately, it's part of the game with it just being a fast, physical game, things happen, so just unlucky."
Guhle, who did not practise on Thursday, left Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild late in the second period and did not return. When or how the injury occurred was not clear.
The 21-year-old from Edmonton has one assist and is plus-4 through three games this season.
Last season, Guhle had the fourth-highest ice-time on the team at an average of 20 minutes 31 seconds as a rookie, but also missed time due to a knee injury and a high ankle sprain. The 2020 first-round draft pick finished with four goals and 14 assists in 44 games.
“We had a lot of trouble with injuries in the last couple years,” said goaltender Samuel Montembeault. “We were hoping this year would be better but we’re three games in and we already have two big injuries.
“I said it last year, I hope there isn’t still a fan who’s casting spells on us. It’s unlucky, but it’s a contact sport.”
With Guhle out, seventh defenceman Justin Barron is likely to draw into the lineup.
LACK OF DISCIPLINE
Through three games, the Canadiens lead the league in penalties taken (29), penalty minutes (85), penalty minutes per game (28:20) and penalty differential per 60 minutes (minus-2.59).
The time spent with a man down in Tuesday night’s loss, in which the Canadiens surrendered three power-play goals, particularly prevented Montreal from gaining any momentum. The Canadiens have only allowed one goal during five-on-five play this season.
“That’s gotta change,” said St. Louis of the penalties. “We’re working on it.
“We’ve gotta tighten up because it doesn’t matter what you do at five-on-five if you’re getting yourself in trouble like that all the time.”
And how do teams scale back on taking penalties?
"A lot of it comes down to defending the right way,” said forward Alex Newhook. “If you defend the right way, put your body in the right spot defensively, a lot of the time you're not in a position to take a bad penalty."
NEED MORE FROM SUZUKI
Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki is off to a slow start with one assist through three games.
Suzuki led the team in scoring last season with 26 goals and 40 assists in 82 games, and is one of the few talented offensive creators in the lineup, especially with Dach out of action.
St. Louis was honest in his assessment of the first-line centre’s season thus far.
"I would say, and Nick would say this too, he has to be better for sure,” said St. Louis. “But it's a long season and he's a guy who has experience in this league, who I'm not concerned will find his form.
“But with how much he plays and his role, Nick has to give us more for sure. It's not something that worries me, Suzuki will be there … Sometimes it's a little bit of confidence. He hasn't forgotten how to play hockey here."
OVI’S SHOOTING WOES
The Washington Capitals captain went without a shot on goal in consecutive games for the first time in his career after Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators and has yet to score a goal this season.
Ovechkin is the NHL’s all-time leader in shots with 6,359 and is 72 goals shy of Wayne Gretzky’s career goal record of 894.
The 38-year-old has scored 33 goals in 57 career games against Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2023.