Canadiens’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi scratched Tuesday vs. Kings

Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists, Jake Guentzel had two goals and two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

The Montreal Canadiens will be without rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi when they hit the ice for Tuesday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Kings, as head coach Claude Julien has listed him as a healthy scratch for the game.

As Sportsnet’s Eric Engels indicated, the roster decision is intended to give the young Finnish forward some rest. The 18-year-old, Montreal’s third overall pick at last June’s draft, broke into the lineup out of training camp and hasn’t missed a game since. Now 66 games into his NHL career, Kotkaniemi has seen his biggest workload in the pros — he suited up for 57 contests in 2017-18 with Ässät of the Finnish elite league. Kotkaniemi has 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points on the season so far as one of the brightest young stars on a club that’s been a surprise contender this year.

Montreal opened the month of March with a back-to-back against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins this past weekend, and have another back-to-back to close out this week when they visit the San Jose Sharks (Thursday) and Anaheim Ducks (Friday) as the final stretch to the playoffs gets underway.

Forward Jordan Weal, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Michael Chaput at the deadline, will sub in for Kotkaniemi, marking his debut with Montreal.

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