Sekac wasted little time putting his terrific skill set on display, showcasing his speed early on the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater event. The Czech forward went up against Florida Panthers rookie Aaron Ekblad, and proceeded to claim the two-skater race in 13.863 seconds.
Despite winning the heat, Sekac admitted that the designated track didn’t necessarily fit his skating style.
“I didn’t like it, really. The turn is very sharp. Once you get some speed, it’s a little bit uncomfortable to make the turn. I would rather go the whole lap [of the ice] than do that. I usually get speed in the turn, so it was harder for me,” offered Sekac, who still soaked in everything he possibly could during the evening. “It was just a great experience for me. You just look at the guys sitting next to you on the bench. It was a big thing for me. I’m very happy.”
The 22-year-old also demonstrated just how quick his hands really are, making a valiant attempt to beat Florida Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo during the Discover NHL Shootout. Unfortunately, Luongo came out on top this time around with a highlight-reel stop.
“It’s just me. It’s nothing else. Everybody else would put it in,” cracked Sekac, who came within inches of besting Luongo, only to see the 15-year NHL veteran make a sprawling save when it seemed like he was down and out. “I usually think about my moves a little bit, but I thought I would go to the backhand. I tried it and I get robbed. It was a great save.”
Like Sekac, Price also enjoyed the All-Star Skills Competition experience, applauding players on both teams for their efforts to entertain a packed house in downtown Columbus.
“I thought the guys were pretty creative during the breakaways. It’s kind of a hard thing to do You have to really think outside the box, and I thought they did a really good job of it,” praised Price, who scored a pair of empty-net goals during the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay.
“We’re just out here having a good time. There’s no pressure. You get to hang out with some guys that you don’t get to see very often. We all get along pretty well. Everyone’s pretty courteous. We all respect each other. It’s been a pretty good time.”
The highlight of the night, however, would undoubtedly have to be Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber’s 108.5 mph slap shot during the AMP NHL Hardest Shot event that garnered its fair share of applause.
“That’s kind of what I expected from him,” shared Price. “I get to see him workout in the summertime. He’s an animal in the gym.”
The Canadiens’ netminder will be back in action at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game which gets underway on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. EST.
2015 All-Star Skills Competition - Price and Sekac
Price, who is making the fourth All-Star appearance of his career, was selected in the sixth round by the squad helmed by Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and alternate captains Patrick Kane (CHI) and Drew Doughty (LAK).
“It was fun. We’ve got a bunch of pretty good guys on our team,” offered Price, whose squad also includes the likes Anze Kopitar (LAK), Steven Stamkos (TBL), Claude Giroux (PHI), Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Bobby Ryan (OTT) and fellow netminders Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) and Brian Elliott (STL). “Everybody we picked has a pretty good reputation. I’m looking forward to playing with them.”
For his part, Sekac joined Tampa Bay Lightning young gun Jonathan Drouin as one of two rookies on Foligno’s roster.
“The mood is really friendly. Everyone is just enjoying the time. I’m glad to be here. It’s great to be a part of it,” praised Sekac, who admits to learning some valuable lessons early on in his first All-Star appearance. “You can see the guys are just enjoying the time and enjoying playing hockey. That’s what it’s all about. You can’t be too serious all the time. It’s still just a game. You’re just trying to have fun.”
Forward Christian Thomas was reassigned to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday morning. Thomas, who was called up on January 8, played three games with the Canadiens during his stint with the big club. He didn't register a point.
In 29 games with the Bulldogs in 2014-15, the Toronto native has nine goals and 14 points.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday morning in preparation for their tilt against the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre. Michel Therrien’s troops will be looking for their second straight win, while Nashville is coming off a 5-2 loss against the Red Wings on Saturday in Detroit. Interestingly enough, the Predators haven’t lost back-to-back games all season.
- After being sidelined for last Saturday night’s contest against the New York Islanders with a minor upper-body injury, Carey Price will be back between the pipes for the Canadiens on Tuesday night. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed the news following the morning skate. It will be Price’s 36th start of the season. He is 1-3-0 in four career outings against Nashville, while also stringing together a 2.49 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.
- The Canadiens bench boss also confirmed that while his lineup won’t feature any changes up front, there will be one change on the back end. Defenseman Tom Gilbert is in, while Mike Weaver will once again be a healthy scratch. Weaver had previously taken Gilbert’s spot in the lineup in the game against the Islanders.
- The Predators make their first visit to La Belle Province since October 2013 on Tuesday night. Peter Laviolette’s squad enters the game as the second-ranked club in the NHL standings, boasting four talented forward lines and a bevy of mobile defensemen. The Canadiens are well aware of Nashville’s capabilities at both ends of the rink, and they’ve got a healthy respect for the group that will offer up the team’s final test before the All-Star break.
“I think every team is a different challenge, but if you look where they are in the standings, you have to treat them exactly like that. They brought in a new coach this year. They’ve got some very good players on that side, and, like always, they’ve really concentrated on not allowing a lot, but they’ve also got guys who can put the puck in the net as well,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who is in the midst of a three-game points streak with three assists during that span. “They’ve been doing a good job at finding ways to get points, so we definitely want to defend our home ice. They’ve found a way to be successful on the road, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
That rings true even if the Predators won’t be featuring the likes of Pekka Rinne between the pipes on Tuesday night. Rinne is sidelined with a knee injury. Carter Hutton will likely get the start in goal for Nashville.
“We’ll take it. Any time Pekka Rinne isn’t in net, we’re happy with that. Obviously, he’s one of the best goalies in the league. He’s having a great year,” mentioned Dale Weise, who has registered more points against the Predators than any other NHL team over the course of his career with three goals and seven points in nine games. “But, Nashville’s always had good goaltenders. Their backups are good goaltenders. They’ve been good, too.”
So, just how significant would a win over the Predators be given their success through 44 games this year?
“It would be huge. This is one of the best teams in the Western Conference. This is kind of a weird game to play when you’re playing the last game before the All-Star break. It’s kind of a game that you’ve really got to be focused for,” stressed Weise, who has six goals and 16 points in 41 games in 2014-15. “This is a perfect team to be playing for that.”
- Carey Price’s return to active duty means that he should be making the trip to Columbus later on this week to take part in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. It will be his fourth trip to the mid-season tilt, and head coach Michel Therrien couldn’t be happier to see the 27-year-old travel to Ohio to suit up alongside some of the league’s top players.
“It will be a good experience for him. We’re very happy that a guy like Carey was chosen to attend. It’s a great experience. The guys meet up with one another. I don’t have anything against it. It’s a part of where he is in his career. He’s an elite goaltender and a role model for a lot of players,” offered Therrien, whose squad will also be represented by young gun Jiri Sekac during the All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. “It’s a part of his responsibilities and he’s taken them on well. It’s good for him. It’s good for the organization. We consider ourselves very lucky to have a person like Carey Price representing the Montreal Canadiens.”
LONGUEUIL – As part of its BLEU BLANC BOUGE program, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation unveiled its sixth multipurpose refrigerated community rink on Monday at Lionel Groulx Park in Longueuil.
Kids big and small – and some just in spirit – hopped on to the fresh ice surface to mark its official opening.
“I think it’s incredible. It’s like I told the guys earlier, it’s rare to see an NHL-sized outdoor rink,” praised Canadiens forward Manny Malhotra of the regulation-size 200-by-85-foot rink which was built in accordance with NHL standards to feature ice quality that meets the highest professional standards. “Being out here is making me feel like a kid again. It’s bringing back memories of playing pond hockey with my friends growing up, when my hands and feet would be frozen, but we’d still have a ton of fun.”
After thrilling fans during the team’s open practice at the Bell Centre on Sunday, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was back in the community on Monday for another lighthearted day at the office.
“When you think of hockey, you think of cold rinks growing up, so it’s pretty special for me to be here today,” admitted the burgeoning Habs rearguard who grew up in Strathroy, ON. “It’s definitely bringing back memories of skating outside and I know the guys are having a lot of fun.”
With existing rinks already located in the neighborhoods of Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension, Montreal North, Verdun, LaSalle, and Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the Longueuil rink becomes the first to be built outside the island of Montreal since the program first launched in 2008.
“I’d like to thank the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, the city of Longueuil, and all of our sponsors for their generosity and belief in the importance of living a healthy lifestyle,” said Canadiens owner, president and C.E.O., Geoff Molson. “We are extremely proud of the positive effect that our five BLEU BLANC BOUGE rinks are able to have in different neighborhoods across Montreal and are confident that the children and families of Longueuil will also benefit from this rink all year round.”
The BLEU BLANC BOUGE program’s primary focus is to develop healthy lifestyles among the youth of the neighborhoods in which the rinks are located, but at least one current Hab would like to see other NHL cities also take note.
“I saw the rink for the first time today and it’s remarkable. Growing up in Toronto I wish we had outdoor rinks this good,” noted Habs star P.K. Subban.
No stranger to NHL regulation-size outdoor rinks, having already skated in front of 41,000 fans during the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary, Subban still had lots to appreciate on Monday.
“It helps that it’s not -30 today,” cracked the 25-year-old assistant captain. “Everything came together perfectly. You can see a lot of great people out here – Geoff Molson came out – it says a lot, Mrs. Beliveau is here as well. It makes it special when you see these types of people sharing their support, but this is Montreal and we’re the Montreal Canadiens. We’re a family, and Quebec as a province supports its community which is really cool to see. Getting to be a part of it is something really special.”
To learn more about the BLEU BLANC BOUGE program, click here.
- The Canadiens were back at practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday morning where they began preparing for Tuesday night’s contest against the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was the only player who didn’t take part in Monday’s on-ice session. The Canadiens confirmed that he is out with concussion-like symptoms. The veteran forward suffered the initial injury back on January 2 in New Jersey, but returned to the lineup last Wednesday night in Columbus. He didn’t suit up, however, for Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders.
- After telling fans at Sunday’s Provigo Canadiens Practice that he’d be returning to active duty shortly, Carey Price took part in Monday’s practice at the Bell Sports Complex. Price missed Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders with a minor upper-body injury.
- The Nashville Predators practiced at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday afternoon after arriving in Montreal on Sunday.
- The Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation will inaugurate its sixth arena in conjunction with the Bleu Blanc Bouge program on Monday. It was installed in Longueuil's Lionel-Groulx Park. Michael Bournival, P.K. Subban, Manny Malhotra and Nathan Beaulieu will be on site for the ceremony, as will Canadiens owner, president and CEO, Geoff Molson.
Forward lines at practice:
Goaltender Joey MacDonald was assigned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon. MacDonald, who was recalled by the Canadiens on Friday, backed up Dustin Tokarski on Saturday night against the New York Islanders. The 34-year-old was in Montreal for precautionary reasons, as Carey Price was sidelined with a minor upper-body injury. During the Provigo Canadiens Practice at the Bell Centre, Price told fans that he wouldn’t be absent for long.
MacDonald has a 6-7-3 record and 2.96 goals-against average in 16 starts with the Bulldogs in 2014-15. The Bulldogs will be back in action on January 23 when they go up against the Toronto Marlies in Hamilton.
- The Canadiens held a full game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday, ahead of hosting the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre.
- Called up from Hamilton on Friday, goaltender Joey MacDonald was on the ice at practice.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was absent from the morning skate. Benefiting from a treatment day, head coach Michel Therrien meanwhile confirmed that the 31-year-old forward will not suit up against the Isles.
- Carey Price was also absent from practice in Brossard. The 27-year-old netminder suffered a minor upper body injury in Columbus on Wednesday, and will be reevaluated on a day-to-day basis.
“We don’t know if he’ll be ready for our next game or the All-Star Game, but it’s nothing major, so there’s no need to worry. It just depends on how his treatment goes,” explained Therrien. “He felt good enough to be the backup after receiving treatment in Ottawa, but yesterday morning he felt a bit stiff, which is why as a preventative measure, he’s not playing tonight.”
- With Price out of the lineup, Dustin Tokarski will make his second straight start on Saturday. Ranked fourth in the NHL with an average of just 2.33 goals allowed per game, the Habs meanwhile, are confident regardless of who is in goal.
“We have confidence in him. We have confidence in both of our goalies. Obviously Carey is our number one guy, but Tokarski was there for us last year when it counted,” noted David Desharnais. “He did a great job then, and he continues to do a great job this year. It’s not something we need to be worried about.”
- With Parenteau out of the lineup, Therrien made a number of personnel changes at practice on Saturday, moving Dale Weise to the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty, while shifting Alex Galchenyuk back to the wing, flanking Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher.
“As a coach with a young player [like Alex], my job is to make sure he’s developing well. I had a good chat with him this morning and he told me that he feels most comfortable playing on the wing right now, so it’s a decision we made together,” explained the Habs’ bench boss. “Our job as coaches is to help keep our players comfortable and confident. It’s a process right now with Alex, and it doesn’t mean he’ll stay on the wing for the rest of the season.”
- One of the surprises of the 2014-15 NHL season, the Islanders arrive in Montreal ranked first overall in the Eastern Conference, setting up what should be an exciting game for fans at the Bell Centre.
“They’ve been playing great this season. They had a couple of tough years in the past, but you can see that they play responsibly now, especially on defense. They look like a team wanting to make the playoffs not only this year, but every year moving forward,” acknowledged defenseman P.K. Subban, whose longtime pal John Tavares leads New York with 42 points in 44 games this season. “They’ve got lots of guys who are able to put the puck in the back of the net, and we’ll have to be especially careful when a guy like Tavares is on the ice.”
- Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre, and will be broadcast on TVA Sports and Sportsnet.
Forward lines at practice:
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Weise
Galchenyuk – Desharnais – Gallagher
Sekac – Eller – Thomas
Bournival – Malhotra – Prust
MacDonald, a nine-year NHL veteran, has won six of his 16 games in Hamilton this season. He was called up previously for one game in December to back up starting goaltender Carey Price.
Price is day to day (upper-body).
MacDonald, a Nova Scotia native, has registered 44 wins in 133 career NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
- The Canadiens hit the ice on Wednesday morning for an optional skate at Nationwide Arena in Columbus in preparation for their tilt against the Blue Jackets. Michel Therrien’s troops will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak. Columbus has also lost two straight. It will be the first meeting between the two teams during the 2014-15 campaign.
- After missing the last three games with an upper-body injury, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau confirmed that he will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Wednesday night. Parenteau suffered the injury back on January 2 in New Jersey, and spent some time on injured reserve before being given the green light to return to active duty.
- Parenteau will be featured on a new line come puck drop in the Buckeye State, suiting up alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust. It’s a similar story for all the Canadiens’ forwards, who will test out Michel Therrien’s fresh line combinations against Columbus. Lars Eller will center a line flanked by David Desharnais and Dale Weise, Tomas Plekanec will play between Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, and Manny Malhotra will center a trio with Michael Bournival and Jiri Sekac on the wing.
“When things aren’t going well offensively, it’s good to mix things up to create a spark. Sometimes, you can get a little bit too comfortable with your linemates and the production goes down. The simple fact is that having new faces around you can help you get your scoring touch back,” stressed Pacioretty, who will be looking to light the lamp for a fifth straight game on Wednesday night. “That’s the mentality that Michel wants to take into the start of the game, hoping that we can put more pucks on net. We saw it earlier this season in Vancouver. He changed the lines and it worked.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss explained that while shuffling the deck like this might appear somewhat drastic, it simply comes with the territory when a coach isn’t seeing his trios click as they should.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure that our players stay on their toes and to find solutions to generate more offense. This is a normal move for me,” confided Therrien, who, despite making moves up front, will not make any changes on the back end for Wednesday night’s game meaning that Mike Weaver will once again be a healthy scratch. “I want to see results when it comes to scoring chances. When I see a player who’s involved, even if he doesn’t score in the end, I know that by generating chances the results are going to come. When you see that a line isn’t generating chances, you have to make changes.”
- Sixteen points might separate the Canadiens and the Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference standings, but Michel Therrien’s contingent is approaching its 42nd game of the season like any other, particularly because Columbus boasts the type of talent that can defeat even the best of teams on any given night.
“They’ve been plagued by injuries. Their place in the standings doesn’t reflect the talent they have. We’ll have to play disciplined hockey because they’ve been successful with the man advantage lately,” admitted Therrien, referencing Columbus’ outstanding power play, which currently ranks second in the NHL. “We just have to play a good, tight game and take advantage of our chances.”
That’s something Lars Eller talked about, too, following the morning skate.
“We want to set the tone out there. I think we have some key assets to bring the game to their zone. We want to take charge and take control, not sit back at all,” offered Eller, who is looking for his first goal since December 29 in Carolina. “We respect them, but at the same time, we want them to adjust to us.”
- On Wednesday, young gun Jiri Sekac had his first opportunity to share his thoughts on being named to the rookie squad for the upcoming NHL All-Star Game in Columbus. Needless to say, the 22-year-old is excited to return to Ohio late next week to spend time with some of the league’s top players.
“I’m glad that it happened and I’m looking forward to it. It will be exciting to be around all of the NHL superstars. It will be a big thing for me,” praised Sekac, who will take Tanner Pearson’s spot on the roster after the Los Angeles Kings forward suffered a broken leg. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was looking forward to going on vacation. It’s big news for me. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
And, it’s safe to say that Therrien is pleased that Sekac has been given such a unique opportunity.
“It will be a good experience for him. That’s how he has to approach it. You learn a lot by learning from the best,” offered Therrien. “It will be a good weekend for him and it can only help his career.”
- Carey Price will make his 35th start of the season on Wednesday night. He holds a 2-3-1 record, a 2.81 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in seven career outings against the Blue Jackets. Columbus will go with Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes.