Canadiens pause through Jan. 6 including AHL affiliate Laval while show goes on in Minnesota for frigid Winter Classic

In the most unsurprising news ever to start 2020 +2 a New Year, the Montreal Canadiens announced that they’re pausing activity through January 6. That also goes for the Laval Rocket of the AHL.

Considering that they basically played with mostly an AHL roster in a 5-2 loss at Florida on New Year’s Day, I get it. No NHL team should ever be forced to ice a roster that only features a few regulars.

For the Habs, only Jonathan Drouin, Nick Suzuki, David Savard, Cole Caufield, Brett Kulak, Cedric Paquette, Michael Pezzetta, Ryan Poehling and Kale Clague can be considered regulars that dress daily. Of the nine, three are rookies including Caufield, Clague and Pezzetta. Jesse Ylonen, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Cameron Hillis and Lukas Vejdemo all are first-year players too.

Without Jake Allen, third string veteran Sam Montembeault made his eighth start and allowed five goals on 48 shots. Undoubtedly, the 25-year old goalie faced a Cats’ onslaught.

It hasn’t been fun for Montreal following their stunning Stanley Cup Finals appearance last year. They have only seven victories in 34 games (7-23-4) for only 18 points. The fewest in the NHL aside from the Coyotes’ 15.

Most surprising is that this is the first real stoppage for the Canadiens. They are tied with Vegas and Anaheim for the most games played. This while teams such as Boston, Ottawa, Colorado, Dallas, Calgary and the Islanders have played less than 30. In fact, following their second consecutive win at home earlier this afternoon, the Isles’ next three games have all been postponed due to the pandemic. Absurd for a team that was forced to use most of Bridgeport in a loss to the Rangers at their new arena.

The Habs will not play another home game at Bell Centre until Jan. 15 against the Devils. They aren’t scheduled to return to action until 11 days from now when they visit the Bruins 1/12 and the Blackhawks 1/13. Part of the design is due to the attendance issue plaguing Canadian teams up north. By adhering to very restricted protocols in Canada, there will be little to no fans at Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

With an increase in games being canceled, it only causes more heartache for the league. Even by opting out of the Olympics in Beijing, that’s a three week window to try to reschedule all these games. Right now, it seems unrealistic that the NHL can do it without extending the regular season past April. Something they weren’t anticipating.

While questions remain for some markets including Seattle, the Wild are hosting the Blues in below frigid conditions at Target Field for the Winter Classic. So far, so good. At last check, the game was tied after a period with the temperature eight below zero. That makes it the coldest ever outdoor hockey game.

Photos taken by Derek Felix courtesy the NHL on TNT.

It definitely looks cool to see the game played in its natural element outdoors in hockey state Minnesota. They even had former Twins great Tony Oliva out at center ice with Kent Hrbek, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

While it will be a successful marquee event with over 38,000 freezing fans cheering on the Wild and Blues, hopefully there won’t be any issues afterwards.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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