Though devoid of a Stanley Cup championship, Bell Centre in Montreal, open since 1996, has about seamlessly built a bridge from the Montreal Forum connecting the energy of game night on a Saturday, in a city that has witnessed 24 Stanley Cup titles – and 11 different trips to the Final.
It’s gone quiet recently due to COVID restrictions on attendance capacity. That’s all gone now, where the gargantuan yet snug 21,302 seat venue, with levels stacked on top of levels over the ice, will expand once again to an all-seats-open environment when the Seattle Kraken make their first ever visit to the host Montreal Canadiens, today at 4pm PT.
Just in time, too for forward Yanni Gourde and defenseman Jeremy Lauzon, who are both natives of Quebec and are expected to have family in attendance for the game tonight – Gourde saying likely with 20 tickets he has vouched to cover the seats.
Gourde, returning for the first time since last season’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final, and Lauzon also spent eight combined years plying their trade in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – Gourde with the Victoriaville Tigres and Lauzon with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
“There was a lot of family watching those two (Cup Final) games,” said Gourde. “It was great playing here in the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup. Lot of memories.”
Gourde and Lauzon – both expected to play – will look to make a fresh memory to salvage a win on the ending of the five-game trip tonight, where the Kraken have gone 0-3-1. Though remarkably rallying out of a 3-0 deficit on Thursday at Ottawa, Gourde is focused on the big picture with less than two months to go in the season.
“I don’t think we’ve been determined enough,” said Gourde. “Other teams are. At the end of the day, if you do that in this league, you’re not going to have much success. You have to find the right balance. You have to go out and give it your all.”
“There’s no easy nights in this league.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol confirmed Alex Wennberg will miss tonight’s game, out with an upper body ailment while joining forward Joonas Donskoi on the sidelines, the latter on injured reserve. Kole Lind was recalled Friday from Charlotte of the AHL.
The Kraken – looking to break an 0-6-1 skid on the road and just three points ahead of last-place Montreal in the league standings – will go with Philipp Grubauer in net again to attempt the season series sweep. Grubauer made 23 saves when the Kraken earned their first home win in franchise history, 5-1 over Montreal on Oct. 26.
Montreal has made sweeping changes since reaching the Cup Final only eight months ago, most notably with the ouster of head coach Dominique Ducharme and replacement in interim head coach Martin St. Louis. Kent Hughes has also taken in the general manager spot for Marc Bergevin, and the Canadiens have gone 7-5 since the appointing St. Louis behind the bench.
Nick Suzuki leads Montreal with 40 points and Josh Anderson leads with 15 goals.