- The Canadiens held an optional skate Tuesday morning at the Bell Sports Complex ahead of a home game against the Phoenix Coyotes in the evening.
“I’m playing tonight,” confirmed a smiling Bourque right after practice. “I’ll make sure to keep things simple and play solid in our zone.”
“We will start him on the fourth line and gauge his progress. Physically, he is ready to go, it’s just a matter of him getting used to the pace of the game, considering the fact that we haven’t had too much practice time recently due to our busy schedule,” added coach Michel Therrien.
Even if he only rejoined his teammates today after the injury layoff, Bourque has been keeping himself in shape for the past week with a daily dose of skating drills and gym exercises.
“I’ve been working with the staff here for about ten days, while the team was on the road. Physically, everything is ready to go,” confirmed Bourque
- George Parros was the only Montreal skater to be absent. He suffered a concussion on Saturday against the Islanders. After practice, Michel Therrien updated the media on Parros’ condition.
“He is working out on the stationary bike and feeling no concussion-related symptoms.
He is feeling really good,” stated Therrien. “Obviously there is a protocol to respect, and it’s not up to me to decide when he can come back. It’ll depend on the medical staff. There are concussions of different severities, but I’m not a doctor. The health of our players is our number one concern, and we are not about to rush him in any way.”
- Carey Price will make his 28th start against Phoenix. He is 5-0-0 lifetime with a 1.78 goals against average and a 0.940 saves percentage against the Coyotes.
LINES AT PRACTICE
Gorges - Emelin
- On Saturday morning, the Canadiens held an optional skate at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY ahead of their tilt against the Islanders. Fourteen skaters took part in the on-ice session along with both goaltenders.
- Nassau Coliseum hasn’t been kind to the Islanders of late, neither have rinks outside of Long Island, for that matter. Jack Capuano’s club has just one win in its last 10 games, and currently sits 15th in the Eastern conference with 23 points, the third-lowest point total in the NHL. While it’s been nearly one month since the Islanders earned a win on home ice, the Habs know better than to take any opponent for granted, most notably after dropping their last two games and being outscored by an 8-1 margin during that span.
“We want to come out hard, get right to it, set the tone, set the tempo of the game. The last couple of games we haven’t done that, and it shows. We definitely have to get back to that,” offered Brandon Prust, who has three goals and six points in 22 games thus far this season. “I think the main thing is kind of getting our swagger back. When we were winning, where we were rolling, we had a little swagger to us, we had a little cockiness. We’ve got to get that back, so right of the hop just get back to our guns, get in on the forecheck and play a hard, physical game.”
- The Islanders might be struggling as a team, but they boast one of the most potent offensive weapons in the NHL in John Tavares, who currently ranks fifth in the league with 37 points on the year. With 13 goals to his credit on the season, the Habs understand the importance of doing their utmost to try to shut Tavares down.
“He’s a special player. He’s one of the best players in the NHL, and you always have to pay particular attention to a player like that when he’s on the ice,” underlined head coach Michel Therrien on the subject of Tavares, who has registered 13 points in 16 career games against the Canadiens. “We’ll have to watch him closely, play him tight, and take away as much time and space as possible. I’m sure that I’m not the only coach who says that because good players always find a way to perform.”
- Therrien hasn’t yet decided whether he will make any changes to his lineup for Saturday night’s game. That decision will come later on today.
- Carey Price will make his 27th start of the season on Saturday night for the Canadiens. He will go in search of his 15th win of the year. Evgeni Nabokov will be between the pipes for the Islanders. The Russian netminder holds a 7-3-0 record and a 2.86 goals-against average in 11 career games against the bleu-blanc-rouge. Nabokov will be making his first start since being sidelined back on November 16 with a groin injury.
- On Friday afternoon, the Canadiens practiced at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset, NY ahead of their Saturday night tilt on Long Island.
- Following Thursday night’s loss against the Flyers, head coach Michel Therrien spent the early part of the on-ice session focusing on even-strength drills. He emphasized intensity and speed for the duration of the workout. The Habs bench boss also put his troops through odd-man rush drills as well at a rather brisk pace.
- Therrien confirmed that Carey Price will get the start in goal against the Islanders on Saturday night. Price holds a 6-2-0-3 record in 11 career games against the Isles, most recently besting Long Island 4-2 back on November 10.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Gionta – Plekanec – Galchenyuk
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Briere
Gallagher – Eller – Bournival
Parros – Prust – Moen
Subban – Markov
Murray – Diaz
Emelin – Gorges
- The Canadiens held an optional skate on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
- Max Pacioretty and Josh Gorges were back at practice after taking therapy days on Wednesday.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that George Parros and Douglas Murray will be in the lineup against Philadelphia. He did not, however, indicate who would be scratched to make room for both players. That decision will come following the pre-game warmup.
- Like the Canadiens, who are looking to erase any and all recollection of Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre, the Flyers have similar motivation after dropping a 7-2 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday in the Windy City.
Knowing full well that the Flyers, like his club, are out to prove something to themselves, Therrien isn’t taking the opposition lightly, even if Philadelphia has gone winless in their last three games, is a modest 4-5-1 in their last 10 and currently sits 13th in the Eastern conference.
“It was their last game on a long road trip [on Wednesday]. It’s tough to stay focused. When you look at the Flyers on paper, they’re a constant threat. They’ve got excellent players,” offered the Habs bench boss, referencing a Flyers squad that boasts offensive standouts Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds. “These are two teams that are looking to forget their last games, and that’s how we’re approaching the game.
“Everything’s good,” continued Therrien, on the subject of his team’s morale heading into the match-up in the City of Brotherly Love. “We’re doing a lot of good things. What happened last game, happens to every team. It’s about how you react and rebound. With the right attitude, I expect that we’ll do that the right way.”
- Daniel Briere spent six seasons in a Flyers uniform before joining the Canadiens this past summer. On Thursday night, the 36-year-old will skate in front of the Philadelphia faithful for the first time in bleu-blanc-rouge. Despite putting up good numbers in Flyers orange and black for just over half a decade, the Gatineau, QC native understands if his return is met with mixed emotions from his former fan base.
“I really don’t know what to expect as far as the crowd reaction goes. I remember a few years back, Mike Richards was one of the fan favorites here. When he came back for the first time, he got an ovation to start the game, but after that, he was booed every time he touched the puck. I understand that,” mentioned Briere, who has five goals and 10 points in 22 games thus far this season. “They’re supporting their teams. I still had some great times here, though.”
Fortunately, it won’t be the first time Briere will have gone up against his former teammates in 2013-14. Back on October 5, the Canadiens downed the Flyers 4-1 in Montreal. That, according to Briere, will make Thursday night’s experience somewhat easier to handle.
“For sure it’s special to be back in the rink where I spent a lot of time over the last few years. I’m happy that the first game is behind me because it’s always the toughest one,” confided Briere. “Playing that first game in your former rink is probably even harder.”
- Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. The Anahim Lake, BC native owns an 8-8-0 record and a 2.71 goals-against average in 17 games against the Flyers over the course of his career. Steve Mason will be between the pipes for Philadelphia on Thursday night.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.
Words From The Room - Dec. 12
Game preview: MTL @ PHI
On the rebound
- Max Pacioretty and Josh Gorges both had therapy days and did not skate. They are however expected to play against the Flyers.
- Rene Bourque skated before practice on Wednesday morning. The winger, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, remains sidelined but is expected to make his return next Monday.
LINES AT PRACTICE
- The Canadiens held an optional skate Tuesday morning at the Bell Sports Complex ahead of a home game against the Los Angeles Kings in the evening.
- Lars Eller was the first skater out on the ice carrying a bucket of pucks. He practiced his stickhandling and took a good number of shots on net before being joined by his teammates. Slotting in alongside the Dane will be Daniel Briere and rookie Michael Bournival, who has been used on several different lines in the past weeks.
“My role’s always been to bring energy and to create things on the ice. No matter who I play with, it’s my job to make a difference on the ice,” stated Bournival, who gets a crack at playing on an offensively line once against after sitting out for a game and spending time on the fourth line. “I just have to adjust myself when I’m with a new line. Everybody here is a good hockey player, so it’s up to me to play well.
While he hasn’t scored since November 19, the speedy winger can be counted on to help his team in other facets of the game.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m working hard, and that’s what matters,” the Shawinigan, QC native insisted. “Things will take care of themselves if I keep doing that.”
- Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Travis Moen, Ryan White and P.K. Subban opted for off-ice workouts rather than stepping on the ice. In the absence of his linemates, Brendan Gallagher still went out on the ice and got a good sweat going before taking on the Kings for the first time.
“They’re a big, physical team who don’t give up a lot of goals. For us it’ll be about building on what we’ve been doing well so far,” Gallagher indicated. “It hasn’t been too long since L.A. has won a Stanley Cup, so I’m excited to play them. They’re a good team, a very structured team. They have a lot of players who can get in your face, and that always makes for a fun game.”
Meanwhile, the right winger’s former linemate Alex Galchenyuk will have a chance to build on his scoring streak, he who lit the lamp on Saturday against the Sabres. As in the Habs’ previous game, he’ll start alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
“Every player on this team brings something different to the table. Plekanec and Gionta have been in the league for a longtime, and they know what to do in order to have success. They’re very good at making simple, smart plays,” offered the American sophomore.”To be honest, I don’t know exactly how I fit in with these guys just yet. I’d have to figure it out. I think I can bring some speed and create offensive chances. But I’d rather not talk about what I bring. I’d rather let people watch and judge for themselves. I’m just excited to play with them and help them.”
- Carey Price, who is 3-0-0 lifetime against the Kings, will be in net for the Habs tonight. He’ll be looking for his eighth win in a row. George Parros and Douglas Murray stayed out to get extra reps in after practice, so it is likely that defenseman Francis Bouillon will play instead of Murray.
- After practice, coach Michel Therrien discussed the progress of his least-experienced charges, as well as the challenge presented by the Kings.
“Young players need all of their focus and physical effort in order to be at the right place on the ice and to make the right plays, so of course it’s harder for them to thrive when the schedule gets busy. Still, in the long term, these are moments which they learn a lot, and we can see the benefits later on,” reflected Therrien on the progress of Bournival, Gallagher and Galchenyuk, the team’s youngest members.
“Los Angeles is a team that I respect a lot. We can’t forget that they won the Cup two years ago, and I give a lot of credit to champions, teams who have gone all the way and won together,” Therrien added about the NHL’s third-best defensive team, coached by Darryl Sutter. “They still have the same core as the winning team two years ago, and they’re a very physical team which is good on the forecheck and puts a lot of pressure on its opponents.”
- The coaching staff started the practice with a focus on special teams, leading players through five-on-four offensive zone drills.
- With L.A., a strong puck possession team, coming to town, coach Michel Therrien also spent a lot of time working on five-on-five puck battle drills with his charges.
- Josh Gorges left practice early but coach Therrien confirmed that the defenseman is fine and will play against the Kings.
- Rene Bourque did not skate Tuesday morning. The winger has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury.
LINES AT PRACTICE
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