The Canadiens skated in Brossard ahead of Saturday’s game against the Sabres. Rene Bourque was not on the ice with the team (upper body) and will not be in the lineup.
Max Pacioretty will look to keep his five-game streak of scoring on home ice alive against Buffalo, having potted nine goals at the Bell Centre in his last five games in Montreal.
Carey Price will get his 24th start of the season on Saturday night, looking to build on his 11-9-7 career record against the Sabres. Price currently sits second among all NHL netminders with a stellar .938 save percentage.
“We’re playing really well right now but we have to keep the foot on the pedal and keep getting wins,” confirmed Travis Moen. “There were a couple of games where we didn’t play our best hockey and our goaltenders kept us in the games and we rebounded. If we have a bad first period we know our goaltenders are there for us and we can come back, but we need to make it easier on our goalies by playing a full 60 minutes.”
Despite sitting first in the division and second in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens are 15th in the NHL in average goals per game with 2.67. Looking to spark some additional offense, Michel Therrien has once again juggled his lines, moving 2013 free agent acquisition Daniel Briere onto a trio with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk and sliding Michael Bournival in alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
“Any time you have a new player, it always takes a little bit of time for him to adjust to the way your team plays and it takes time for the coach to get to know his strengths and weaknesses,” explained the Canadiens’ coach. “We’re trying out different line combinations to help the team have the most success possible. Daniel is slowly acclimating to the team. He’s a guy who brings a lot of good things on offense and together with guys like Eller and Galchenyuk they’ll make some good things happen offensively.”
Heading into Saturday’s game as the division leaders with 39 points in 30 games, the Canadiens will face off against the NHL’s last-place team in the Sabres, who have just six wins in 29 games this season. Despite playing the league’s basement dwellers for the second time in two weeks following a 3-1 win in Buffalo on Nov. 27, Michel Therrien isn’t letting his troops ease off the accelerator heading into Saturday’s game.
“For us, our main focus is the way we play, and there is still room to improve,” confirmed Therrien. “There are still things I believe we can work on with our team and we want to get better. It's not about the Buffalo Sabres; it's about us and making sure we’re a good team.”
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre.Lines and D pairings at practice
Words from the room
Game preview: Canadiens vs. Sabres
- A day after the Habs’ 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, only a few players took part in an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard before Thursday night’s game against the Boston Bruins. Michel Therrien will annonce later in the day whether he plans on making any changes to the lineup.
- The Swedish Hockey Federation unveiled on Thursday a list of 26 players invited to the World Junior Hockey Championship selection camp. Representing the Canadiens at camp include prospects Sebastian Collberg and Jacob De La Rose, who are looking to defend the home team’s colors in Malmö during the tournament opener against Switzerland on December 26th.
- The Canadiens held a morning skate Wednesday at the Prudential Center in Newark, hours before taking on the New Jersey Devils.
- Centerman David Desharnais is running hot of late, putting up five points (1G 4A) in his last four games, including two assists in the Habs’ come-from-behind win against the Devils Monday night at the Bell Centre. He commented on his team’s sterling defence, which has prevented opposing squads from putting more than two goals on the board in the last 11 games.
“We’re playing well defensively, but it also helps what we are controlling the puck in the offensive zone and that we have our forecheck going. This way we spend a lot less time in our own zone,” offered Desharnais. “Our goaltenders have been incredible too, and that’s the other big part of our success.”
While the Devils have historically played good defensive hockey, Desharnais has been productive against New Jersey, putting up six points in ten career games.
“It’s never easy to play here. We found a way to win on Monday, but clearly tonight will be another story,” cautioned the Habs pivot, who will be facing goaltender Cory Schneider for the first time ever. “Before each game, we go over the strengths and weaknesses of each opposing goalie, but that’s not what we focus on. If we do what we have to do, the goals will take care of themselves.”
- Commenting on his team’s recent successes on both sides of the puck, head coach Michel Therrien underlined his players’ commitment and discipline.
“It’s always good for confidence when you’re on such a roll, but we are always conscious that we have to start over in each game. We’re playing structured, inspired hockey, and we have to keep working in that direction,” insisted the Canadiens’ bench boss. “The players are playing a team game, and we can’t forget that our goalies have been making key saves. Our results are a reflection of the team’s attention to detail.”
He also had some praise for the team’s leading scorer.
“P.K. Subban is doing exactly what we’ve asked of him for him to become an elite defenseman in the NHL. Offensively, he is making the right decisions; he’s always a threat for the other team on the ice. He’s always very dedicated to doing the small things right on defense. I am extremely happy about the way he’s approaching the game,” Therrien added.
- Subban himself thinks that he’s been the beneficiary of some good luck, like on Monday when he made two improbable goal-line stick saves to rob the Devils of sure goals. For him though, luck is just when preparation meets opportunity.
“We’re doing the right things, but obviously you still need the bounces to go your way. A few times, the puck could have gone in, but didn’t. We’re playing the right way and playing well, the puck will bounce in your favour, and that’s what we got. The only way to keep getting those bounces is to do the right things on the ice,” the reigning Norris Trophy winner suggested.
- Rene Bourque did not make the trip to New Jersey due to an upper-body injury, freeing up a spot in the lineup for Ryan White, who had been a healthy scratch on Monday.
- In Bourque's absence, Brandon Prust slotted in to the right of Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller, while Bournival, White and Moen practiced together.
- Coach Therrien announced after practice that Peter Budaj will be in net tonight. The Slovakian veteran will be making his first career start against the Devils. On defense, Francis Bouillon draws in for Douglas Murray.
LINES AT PRACTICE
On Monday afternoon, Hockey Canada revealed the names of the 25 players who will take part in their Selection Camp ahead of the World Junior Hockey Championships that will be held in Sweden and Denmark during the upcoming holiday season.
In 29 games with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens this season, Hudon has amassed 11 goals and 32 points. After missing the championship in 2012 due to injury, Hudon took part in the event in 2013. He registered one assist in seven games.
For his part, Fucale is almost assured of his spot with the team since only two goaltenders will take part in the Selection Camp. Fucale is 17-7-0 with a 2.62 goals-against average in 25 games with the Halifax Mooseheads this season.
- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday ahead of their tilt against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre.
While Peter DeBoer’s contingent is riding a two-game winning streak, the Canadiens have strung together one impressive performance after another in recent weeks, amassing 11 out of a possible 12 points in their last six games.
In order to keep that momentum going against New Jersey, Lars Eller knows full well that the Canadiens need to dictate play as much as possible, forcing a defensively-sound Devils squad to alter their game plan accordingly.
“I think that we’ve got to play our game and then they’ll adjust to us,” underlined Eller, who has seven goals and 15 points on the season for the Canadiens. “There are certain players that you need to be aware of, of course. They have some good skill up front. In general, they’re a good defensive team where you don’t see many goals scored against, so historically it’s going to probably be a low scoring game tonight.”
- Monday night’s contest will be the first of a home-and-home series with the Devils, as Michel Therrien’s squad will battle New Jersey again on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center in Newark. It also marks the start of a tough stretch of four games in six days for the Canadiens.
“It’s a lot of hockey, but we’ll have our breaks. We’ll have time to rest to get ready for game day,” underlined Brendan Gallagher, who has only missed one game thus far this season. “When you have a day off, you have to take care of your body and do what you have to do away from the rink. It helps to prepare yourself, and when game day comes around, you’re ready to come to the rink and do your job.”
- After being set aside against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, Michaël Bournival will be back in the lineup against the Devils. On Monday morning, the Shawinigan, QC native skated alongside Brandon Prust and Travis Moen.
“The coach has to put the best lineup available on the ice against each opponent. I accepted his decision. Of course you want to play, but at the same time, I understand the coach’s decision,” explained Bournival, who saw George Parros take his spot in the lineup against Toronto.
The upstart forward met with Michel Therrien after the decision was made, and the pair discussed the expectations that the Habs bench boss has for him going forward.
“He told me that he really liked the type of energy that I bring,” mentioned Bournival, who will play his 24th game in a Canadiens uniform on Monday night. “He explained to me that it wasn’t about my performance, but primarily because of the team’s needs for that particular game.”
- In his post-practice press conference, Michel Therrien indicated that he would not discuss his lineup ahead of Monday night’s game. The question remains whether Francis Bouillon or Douglas Murray will be in uniform against New Jersey.
- Carey Price will likely get the start in goal and should go in search of his fifth consecutive victory on Monday night. If he gets the call, the Anahim Lake, BC native will be making his 18th career start against the Devils. Price holds a 7-9-1 record against New Jersey and a 2.42 goals-against average.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Bourque - Eller - Galchenyuk
Pacioretty - Desharnais - Gallagher
Bournival - Prust - Moen
Gionta - Plekanec - Briere
White - Parros
Subban - Markov
Gorges - Emelin
Diaz - Murray
Words From The Room - Dec. 2
Game preview: MTL vs. NJD
The Numbers Game – November 30, 2013
- The Canadiens practiced at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC on Thursday afternoon ahead of their tilt against the Capitals on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m.
- Defenseman Douglas Murray did not participate in practice on Thursday. He was given a therapy day. Murray was involved in a tough one-on-one tilt with John Scott in the Canadiens’ 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Peter Budaj will get the start in goal against the Capitals on Friday night. Budaj bested the Caps last Friday night in Washington, helping the Canadiens pick up a 3-2 win.
- While Rene Bourque skated alongside his teammates once again at practice on Thursday, it is still unknown whether he will be back in the lineup on Friday afternoon. The veteran winger has missed the last four games with a lower-body injury.
Magnus Nygren, a defenseman with the Hamilton Bulldogs, has been assigned to Färjestad of the Swedish Hockey League on Wednesday.
In 16 games with the Bulldogs, the 23 year-old blueliner has compiled eight points, including seven assists.
The right-hander was drafted by the Canadiens in the fourth round, 113th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
- The Canadiens announced that they have signed assistant general manager Rick Dudley to a contract extension.
"I love the city. I love the passion of the people, and the people that I work with," mentioned Dudley, who met with the media on Wednesday evening. "That goes from Marc [Bergevin] to Larry [Carriere] to Scott [Mellanby] and John [Sedgwick], and you go on to the coaching staff. I get along extremely well with Michel [Therrien]. He’s been a lot of fun. It’s a situation where I’ve been having fun, and I didn’t want to change."
- On Wednesday morning, the Canadiens skated at the First Niagara Center ahead of their tilt against the Buffalo Sabres.
- Wednesday night’s game will be the first of four meetings between the two clubs during the 2013-14 regular season campaign. Last season, the Habs went 2-1-2 against Buffalo overall, and were 1-0-1 at First Niagara Center.
- The Habs will look to extend their current winning streak to four games on Wednesday night. If successful, the Canadiens would match a season-high in that department, having previously won four consecutive contests from
Oct. 10th – 17th.
For their part, the Sabres sit last overall in the NHL standings with 11 points on the year. Buffalo has won just two of 13 home games this season. Despite the Sabres’ struggles thus far this year, the Canadiens aren’t underestimating their opponents.
“We’re definitely not taking the Sabres lightly,” underlined head coach Michel Therrien, whose squad will battle a Sabres contingent that is in the midst of a four-game losing skid. “I think that the players are conscious of the fact that in the NHL, every game is a tough one to play. I have no doubt about it, the guys will be ready to go tonight.”
- As expected, Carey Price will make his 20th start of the season and his 27th career start against the Sabres on Wednesday night. Price is 10-9-7 all-time versus Buffalo.
The Sabres, meanwhile, will start Ryan Miller between the pipes. Miller will be making his 19th start of the year. While the veteran netminder isn’t off to the start he'd hoped for in 2013-14 with a 4-14-0 record and a 3.11 goals-against average, the East Lansing, MI native has always managed to put up stellar performances against the Habs. Miller has 25 wins in 41 outings against the Canadiens, something members of the bleu-blanc-rouge are well aware of.
“They’ve got many good players, and a very, very good goaltender also who can win games by himself. I saw that happen plenty of times when I played here,” confided Daniel Briere, who played alongside Miller for four seasons during his stint in Buffalo. “There’s some danger involved in taking the Sabres lightly. Games likes these can be trap games. There’s so much parity in hockey today that you really can’t read much into the opposing team’s record.”
- The Canadiens practiced Tuesday morning at the Bell Sports Complex, hours before leaving for a short two-game roadtrip in Buffalo and Washington.
- The first part of practice was devoted to the powerplay. Coach Michel Therrien freely rotated his top three lines on the man advantage drills, and employed Markov-Subban and Bouillon-Diaz at the point.
- Rene Bourque, who missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, returned to practice wearing a red full contact jersey. He is cleared to return to action, but will not play on Wednesday.
- Carey Price will likely make his 20th start of the season Wednesday in Buffalo. It will be his 27th career game against the Sabres (10-9-7).
- Coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Peter Budaj will start one of the two games later in the week. He did not, however, mention if it will come against the Capitals on Friday and the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
LINES AT PRACTICE
The QMJHL announced on Monday morning that two members of the Canadiens organization - Patrice Brisebois and Gerard Gallant - were going to be inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame.
During his career in the Junior ranks, Brisebois played for the Laval Titan and the Drummondville Voltigeurs. For his part, Gallant suited up for the Sherbrooke - and Saint-Jean - Castors, before joining the Verdun Juniors. He also made his mark as a coach with the Saint-John Sea Dogs.