Neither Carey Price nor Sidney Crosby is expected on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens' home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but there are plenty of story lines nonetheless.It starts in goal, where Al Montoya will make a third straight start in place of the ailing Price when the teams meet Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
Montoya will almost certainly be up against Mike Condon, the man he beat out for the job as Price's backup in training camp. Condon was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh at the end of camp to fill in for the injured Matt Murray.
"We'll see how that goes," Montoya said with a laugh.
Penguins starter Marc-André Fleury was pegged to play Monday night at home against Colorado, making Condon the likely starter in Montreal, where he had an up-and-down rookie campaign playing most of the games after Price blew out a knee last Nov. 25.
"I'm sure he'll be excited," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said. "He's got a good opportunity there in Pittsburgh and I hope he takes advantage of it. I just hope it's not [Tuesday] night against us."
Price is feeling better after missing Montreal's first two games with a nasty flu, but needs to regain weight and energy before he can play. The 2015 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner took part in off-ice training and worked for 40 minutes with goalie coach Stéphane Waite before the main practice on Monday.
Coach Michel Therrien said Price wouldn't dress against Pittsburgh and wasn't sure if he'll be ready to face Arizona on Thursday.
"When he's able to play it means his energy, his weight, everything, has to be 100 per cent," Therrien said. "In the NHL you're facing great hockey players and you need to be on top of your game. Otherwise you can't play."
Price felt completely healed when he joined Team Canada and led them to gold in the World Cup of Hockey last month. He got into one preseason game before falling ill just before the regular season opened last week.
Of course, there were suspicions in some corners that Price had re-injured his knee, which drew a shrug from Therrien.
"The guy's sick. What do you want me to say?" the fifth-year coach said. "He's feeling better and it's great news."
Crosby, the Penguins superstar, missed the start of the season with a concussion. He skated Monday before the team's main skate and is listed as day to day, but it is doubtful he will play in Montreal.
It will be interesting to see how the Bell Centre crowd greets veteran defenceman Shea Weber. Most fans were shocked and some were outraged when general manager traded the popular P.K. Subban to Nashville for Weber.
The deal sent a dynamic, puck-carrying defenceman, who was also a fan favourite, to the Predators for the more conservative but highly respected Weber.
Weber is off to a good start, with two assists and a plus-3 in his first two games for Montreal.
"We'll support Shea," Therrien said. "For our fans, for management, the coaches and players, we're all excited to get a guy like Shea Weber."
It will be a big night for rookies Mikhail Sergachev and Artturi Lehkonen as well. The 18-year-old Sergachev's parents are flying in from Russia to watch him play.
Sergachev struggled in the season opener, a 4-1 win in Buffalo, and was a healthy scratch in Saturday's shootout loss in Ottawa. He will take Greg Pateryn's spot in the lineup against the Penguins, which will be a major test for the youngster drafted ninth overall from the Windsor Spitfires in June.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins play a fast-paced game and, even without Crosby, have major speed and talent up front in Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin.
"They come at you fast," Gallagher said. "Especially in the last half of last year they built their identity as being a speed team.
"We've always prided ourselves in playing that way as well, so I'm sure it will be a high-tempo game. We'd better be ready to skate."
As well as Weber and Montoya, newcomers Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov will also be in their first Canadiens home opener.