Connor Bedard will make his first trip north of the United States border when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Bedard, the highly touted No. 1 overall pick by Chicago in the 2023 NHL Draft, notched his first NHL goal in a 3-1 loss at the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, a day after producing his first assist in a 4-2 victory at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He’s a really great player,” Boston forward Milan Lucic said. “Really elite skill, elite skater, great vision … obviously an unbelievable shot. He’s only two games in, but I think he’s going to keep getting better and better, and he’s going to be the real deal.”
The Blackhawks will be looking to improve on their power play, which is 0-for-7. But they’ll need to get untracked without one of their key players on the man advantage.
Taylor Hall sustained an upper-body injury after taking a hit from Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo 24 seconds into the second period but had improved enough by Friday to be considered more of a day-to-day situation an upper-body injury. However, he has been ruled out for Saturday’s game.
“It was unfortunate,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “We just have to plow through. He was playing really well for us.”
Andreas Athanasiou filled Hall’s spot on the top power-play unit against Boston and also moved up to the top line.
The Canadiens lost their season opener 6-5 in a shootout against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
Alex Newhook had two goals and Cole Caufield, Jake Evans and Jesse Ylonen also scored for Montreal, which let a 5-3 lead with just under five minutes remaining slip away.
The Canadiens briefly thought they went up 3-0 with a power-play goal 5:50 into the second period, but Toronto successfully challenged that Montreal was offsides prior to the goal.
“That’s not easy to be up 3-0 and then next thing you know, you’re down 3-2 all in one period,” Montreal defenseman Mike Matheson said. “That’s kind of what we talked about in the second period — this is a test, and how are we going to respond? And I thought we responded great.
“We had a two-goal lead with six, seven minutes left, whatever it was, and that’s a big learning experience. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but definitely one that we have to take.”
The Maple Leafs pulled their goalie with 4:45 remaining and Auston Matthews scored his second goal of the game 13 seconds later before completing a hat trick on the tying goal with 1:07 remaining.
Montreal also was disappointed it could not take advantage of a power play over the final 1:47 of overtime.
“We’ve got to find ways to keep on moving forward and keep rolling the way we were rolling,” said Montreal center Kirby Dach, who had two assists. “We took our foot off the gas pedal.”
Matheson said it might take some time for the young Canadiens to learn how to close out victories.
“It’s still the NHL and it’s still a really hard league,” Matheson said. “So, whether it’s your first year, second year, eighth year, there’s always things to learn and I think our goal shouldn’t be … to be 50 percent better in Game 1. It’s got to be three percent, four percent better, and incrementally keep building off where we were last year.”