Looking for a rebound performance after a poor defensive showing versus St. Louis on Saturday, the Maple Leafs will visit a Montreal Canadiens team that has won consecutive games for the first time this season (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Not to pile on what will probably be remembered as the worst season in Canadiens franchise history, but it’s remarkable how much can change in five months if we turn back the clock to the season opener between these two teams on October 13th.

The Stanley Cup Finalists (sounds hilarious now) are in a totally different universe after gutting their Marc Bergevin-led management group and hiring a seemingly progressive solution behind the bench in Martin St. Louis. Fresh blood in the front office and a new coaching staff in place that is committed to long-term improvement is the only consolation for Habs fans at the moment.

For the Leafs tonight, it’s important not to overlook the fact that the Habs, while missing quite a few players to injury, are showing a few signs of life under their new coach. Cole Caufield has four goals in his last five games, Jeff Petry appears to be a little more engaged of late (four points in his last three), and Josh Anderson broke a six-game slump in yesterday’s shootout win over the Islanders. On the flip side, Brendan Gallagher is still mired in a miserable slump of 12 games without a point (-11 plus/minus).

While they addressed the depth of their blue line over the weekend, it remains the goaltending that is a major cause for concern for the Leafs of late. There is no other team in the NHL that has seen its collective save percentage drop like the Maple Leafs in the second half of the season so far:

This is an alarming trend line, to be sure, and one that will need to turn around if the Leafs are going anywhere in the playoffs this Spring. Thankfully, there is cause for hope that things will normalize again given Campbell’s superlative first half and the fact that Petr Mrazek is just getting into the swing of things with his season. Both goalies will see action early this week in the back-to-back, starting with Mrazek tonight.

It appears Leafs fans will have to wait another day for the debut of their new physical defenseman. Ilya Lyubushkin is on his way to Columbus today, where he’ll meet the rest of the team for their game against the Blue Jackets tomorrow.

Game Day Quotes

Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis on encouraging his team to have fun playing hockey again:

Fun is part of it. You need direction. You need a culture. Inside all of that, fun has to be a part of it.

Winning brings that, but also, as coaches, you are in the business of convincing players why you are doing things a certain way. Once you have convinced them, it really takes off.

As a player, what I miss the most as a player is the fun I had. You have to create an environment or culture where fun is a part of it. We can’t just focus on the wins and losses. It is part of it, but to me, it is the process. I think the boys are believing in the process and having fun with it.

St. Louis on structure vs. systems:

We play with some structure inside a concept where they are allowed to make reads. You don’t get to the NHL without having some smarts, to so speak, on the ice. A lot of guys have speed, skill, and whatever, but at the end of the day, the reason why they’re here is that they probably read it better than most people their age as they move up the ranks.

I always found with systems, so to speak, you handcuff guys and you handcuff guys who usually make a lot of good reads. If you take the reads out of the equation, sometimes they become not as good or they become average.

It’s allowing your players to make reads and feel free on the ice but still having some structure in the sense of smelling danger sometimes and being willing to play away from the puck and play defense. It is part of it. They have to meet me halfway. I think they have done that.

Sheldon Keefe on when Iyla Lyubushkin will join the team and whether he feels comfortable experimenting with new combinations:

Really, all season we’ve moved things around a fair bit. We’ve tried to utilize everybody and try different things. That will continue.

He’s on his way to Columbus today, trying to get a lot of things sorted out there in terms of his visa and stuff to be able to come to Canada. He’ll be with us in Columbus tomorrow. We’ll make a determination on whether he’ll play from there.

Keefe on what changes he expects from the Habs five games into their coaching change:

What I’m thinking about more is what naturally happens with a lot of these coaching changes — it just gives the team a boost. The morale increases, and for a team like Montreal and what they’ve been going through, that goes a long way.

With that morale boost and playing in front of fans here tonight — they’ve won two-in-a-row coming in — those things have gotten our attention. Of course, through all of this, we haven’t forgotten that there’s 11 of 18 skaters that will be on the ice tonight that knocked us out of the playoffs last year. We’ve got to be focused and committed to playing our best game.

Keefe on scouting the Canadiens after their coaching change:

We haven’t gone through much of anything that’s gone on before the coaching change, to be honest. We’ve been focusing on their games here recently. They’re a team that’s working and competing very hard. When you do that, you tend to play better defensively and plug some holes that way.

Obviously, Caufield’s been getting more offensive success here as of late, but they’ve got some guys that, if you make mistakes, they’re going to make you pay for it.

Keefe on his wishlist heading into the trade deadline:

The top of my wishlist is to play a really good, solid 60-minute game here in Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#5 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev  #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds

#44 Morgan Rielly –  #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin  – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#23 Travis Dermott – #3 Justin Holl

Starter: #35 Petr Mrazek
#36 Jack Campbell

Extra: Rasmus Sandin

Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines

#22 Cole Caufield – #14 Nick Suzuki – #17 Josh Anderson
#68 Mike Hoffman – #45 Lauren Dauphin – #11 Brendan Gallagher
#32 Rem Pitlick  – #71 Jake Evans – #41 Paul Byron
#55 Michael Pezzeta – #25 Ryan Poehling – #62 Artturi Lehkonen

#77 Brett Kulak  – #26 Jeff Petry
#27 Alexander Romanov – #8 Ben Chiarot
#43 Kale Clague – #20 Chris Wideman

Starter: #35 Sam Montembeault
#37 Andrew Hammond

Injured: Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia, Christian Dvorak, Mathieu Perreault, Joel Edmundson, David Savard, Carey Price, Jake Allen