The Montreal Canadiens and the Flyers meet in Philadelphia in a battle of two of the top East teams, and many hockey observers will be watching P.K. Subban and Mike Richards closely during Monday's clash.
The two clubs reignited a long-established rivalry in May with a conference final meeting won by the Flyers, and Richards threw some kindling on it following a 3-0 loss in Montreal last week.
Richards was of the opinion that Subban — still a rookie despite his playoff baptism in the spring — is a litte too mouthy and disrespectful in the skirmishes for someone of his limited NHL experience.
The Philly captain then launched a shot across the bow: “Hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because I'm not saying I'm going to do it, but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky.”
For his part, Subban said he isn't going to change his style if it's working for his teammates and coaches.
The comments created fodder for sports radio talk shows and the blogosphere. Many old school hockey types hold the quaint notion — when compared to first-year basketball and football players — that rookies should be compliant, almost mousy, until they've “earned their stripes.”
As for on-ice matters, the winner of Monday's game will be nipping on the heels of Washington for the Eastern Conference lead. The Capitals are also in action, against New Jersey.
The Canadiens have been the only team recently to neutralize the Flyers. In their other five most recent games, they've scored 29 goals.
In Montreal's nine games in November, five have resulted in a shutout either for the Canadians (three times) or their opponent.
Players to watch
Montreal —Brian Gionta
While Subban and Richards will take their share of headlines, it will be interesting to see if the Flyers once again can bring out the best in Gionta, who's gone pointless in the last two. Gionta scored and assisted twice in the first game against Philadelphia, part of a five-game point streak.
It brought his career totals to 13 goals and 20 assists in 41 games against the Flyers.
Philadelphia —Daniel Briere
Briere is tied for second on the team with 10 goals, and the Quebec native has done all right when facing the Habs.
He led the Flyers with five points in the four regular season games against Montreal last season, bringing his career totals against the Habs to 13 goals and 11 assists in 35 games.
Montreal —Carey Price
Price tied division counterpart Tim Thomas of Boston for the league lead with a fourth shutout on Saturday.
Price has been a riddle for the Flyers in regular season meetings, with a 6-1-0 career record, 1.64 average and .948 save percentage. The 41-save effort on Nov. 22 was his second career shutout against Philadelphia.
Philadelphia—Sergei Bobrovsky & Brian Boucher
Bobrosky has given a team with a litany of goaltending frustrations in recent years cause for hope with his play in his first NHL season. The Russian 11-3-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average, although he showed signs of tiring last week, losing to Montreal and getting pulled after a period in an 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay.
Veteran Boucher was in net for the win over the Capitals, putting his season mark at 2-3-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average.
The only ones to report are long-term injuries. The Flyers are without defender Matt Walker, forward Dan Carcillo and goalie Michael Leighton, with Montreal missing star defenceman Andrei Markov.
Philadelphia imposed its size on Montreal in the East final in May, winning in five games. While several of the players were different, the Flyers also won a five-game playoff series in 2008.
The clubs split the four season meetings in 2009-10.