The Montreal Canadiens have signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a one-year, two-way league minimum contract.

This is a potential low-risk, high-reward signing, as Montreal has numerous injuries in its forward group including Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, and Paul Byron. Consider this a tryout for the 36-year-old veteran looking to cling onto his NHL career, where he won’t have a ton of time to acclimatize himself to the Montreal system. If he can produce before the Habs become healthy, he’ll stick around for the rest of the season. If not, then it’s off to the AHL and probably curtains for his NHL career.  

Kovalchuk got off to a great start with the Kings last season with 14 points in his first 14 games. Then John Stevens was fired and replaced by Willie Desjardins. Kovalchuk could not make it work under either Desjardins or this season’s coach Todd McLellan, and simply wasn’t a fit on the slow, rebuilding Kings. Even though there’s a chance he may find new life on the Canadiens with potential power-play usage, I would not use a roster spot on him unless you play in a very deep league in which you’re trying to replace someone like Byron or even Armia as opposed to someone like Drouin or Gallagher.

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Ilya Samsonov made 38 saves in the Capitals’ 4-3 win in Carolina on Friday. Don’t be afraid to start Samsonov away from Washington, as he’s 8-0-0 on the road to start his NHL career. He’s also the first goalie in NHL history to win the first eight road starts of his career. Among rookie goalies, only Mackenzie Blackwood has more wins than Samsonov (11). Samsonov is playing only one-third of the time, but I have to wonder if that increases with his numbers being much better than Braden Holtby’s. If Samsonov ends up playing only 30 games this season, then we might be having the same conversation about him as a Calder Trophy candidate as we had with Jordan Binnington last season.  

In the win, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a power-play goal and added an assist. Kuznetsov now has four goals over his last three games.

For the Canes, Lucas Wallmark's seven-game point streak came to an end. Wallmark recorded nine points over that span. The remarkable part is that he's been getting it done with Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn as his linemates as opposed to Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen

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In the other matchup of the night, Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz each scored a goal and added an assist in the Stars’ 4-1 win over Detroit. Pavelski was playing in his 1000th NHL game.

John Klingberg was out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, so Esa Lindell stepped up and chipped in three assists – two shorthanded – while logging 25 minutes of icetime. Lindell now has a point in three consecutive games.

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Some injury news:

Victor Olofsson will be out of the Buffalo lineup for 5-6 weeks with a lower-body injury. This is a costly injury for the Sabres, who lose the league’s top-scoring rookie and are already thin at forward after the top line. This could also be an opportunity for Jeff Skinner to return to the top line should he be able to return from his own injury before Olofsson. If you’re looking for a more short-term Sabre to keep an eye on, Rasmus Asplund replaced Olofsson on the top line on Thursday and was also on the top line during Friday’s practice.

Jack Hughes is currently day-to-day with an upper-body injury that forced him to miss Thursday’s game.

Ryan Ellis has been placed on IR with an upper-body injury (likely a concussion) after receiving an elbow to his head from Corey Perry at the Winter Classic. On a related note, Perry has been suspended five games for the elbow along with the game misconduct (and the long walk of shame to the dressing room). You can watch the NHL Player Safety video below.
 


While we’re talking about suspensions, Kurtis MacDermid was suspended two games for his check to the head of Ivan Provorov. Fortunately, Provorov did not appear to be injured on the play.

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We now know a little more about the situation surrounding Jim Montgomery’s dismissal from the Dallas Stars. Montgomery has released a statement:
 


Hoping for all the best in his recovery.

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Since Friday featured only two games, I had some time to answer a couple of questions that came my way via Twitter.

Robin Lehner or Philipp Grubauer or Devan Dubnyk for the rest of the season?

Here’s the basic stats comparison from Compare Goalies on Frozen Tools.
 


Extended stats comparisons also favor Lehner, particularly in quality start percentage (QS%) and even-strength save percentage (EV SV%).
 


I know these are previous stats and the question is more about what happens going forward, but I like Lehner here because the Chicago goalie situation is playing out in his favor. He’s started four consecutive games, although I don’t think there will be a fifth for a number of reasons that I listed in yesterday’s Ramblings.

Lehner also seems like the most talented goalie at the moment. Having said that, the other two goalies could earn more wins over the rest of the season – Grubauer because he plays for a better team, and Dubnyk because he’s more firmly entrenched as the starter. If you’re just chasing wins, then one of the other two options might be better (I’d go with Grubauer then), but Lehner has had better ratios than the other goalies both this season and last.

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Do you think Kailer Yamamoto is here to stay?

In his first two games in the NHL this season, Yamamoto has been placed on a line with Leon Draisaitl, so he’s being given real opportunity as opposed to being buried on a checking line and expected to make something out of nothing. So far it has worked for Yamamoto, who has scored a goal and an assist over those two games. Keep in mind that he’s no longer considered a rookie, given his 26 games over the last two seasons.

Size (5-8, 158 lbs) is a concern in terms of handling everyday life in the NHL, but smaller players are in an easier work environment now than they have been in the last 20-30 years. It’s not as though the Oilers are overflowing with talented scorers, so I’m going to say that the chances that Yamamoto stays with the Oil for good are better than 50-50. Not 100 percent (nothing ever is), but since only Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and perhaps Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have a higher upside, I like his chances.

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Confirmed goalie starts on Saturday, as per Goalie Post:

Jaroslav Halak (vs. EDM): The Bruins have alternated goalies since before Christmas and for much of the season. You’ll want to start Halak every time he is playing, as he is posting top-10 ratios for a backup goalie.

Aaron Dell (@CBJ): Martin Jones owners beware: This is Dell’s second consecutive start after coming off a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday. It sounded like Bob Boughner was going to try to ride the hot hand when he took over. Columbus is a low-scoring team, so Dell’s ratios might be okay here. Picking up a win might be harder, as the Jackets are also a stingy team and are playing at home (and will probably start Elvis).

Carter Hart (@ARI): You could copy and paste the last two sentences of the previous paragraph and substitute Arizona for Columbus. I’d be okay starting Hart here.  

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Talk to you tomorrow after a busy Saturday.

For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.