BROSSARD – The Canadiens held a full game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday, ahead of hosting the visiting Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.
- Defenseman Tom Gilbert, who suffered an upper body injury against the Sharks a week ago, skated alone under the supervision of athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine prior to the start of practice. Gilbert has missed two games since last Saturday after not making the trip to Nashville and Winnipeg earlier this week.
“We want to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do. To be honest, we haven’t given him many chances to prove himself since he arrived here. We have a group of healthy forwards in our lineup right now, and tonight we want to give him a chance,” confirmed head coach Michel Therrien of Flynn, who has suited up for just five games since being acquired by the Canadiens at the NHL trade deadline.
Although the 26-year-old forward will take Devante Smith-Pelly’s place in the lineup as the latter joins Manny Malhotra, Sergei Gonchar, and Mike Weaver on the press gallery, Therrien insists there’s nothing to read between the lines.
“It’s not about Devante. We really just want to see what Flynn can bring. Devante brought a good physical presence to our last two games on the road, but we want to be fair with Flynn and give him his chance,” added the Canadiens’ bench boss.
- With a win against the Panthers on Saturday, the Canadiens can officially secure a playoff berth this spring. Despite already owning 100 points in the standings with seven games left to play, Lars Eller insists that doing so would represent more than a formality for a team also battling for the top spot in the East.
“We’re in a good position [to make it], but we’re not in the playoffs yet,” acknowledged the 25-year-old forward who has 25 games of NHL playoff experience under his belt. “It’s not the playoffs yet, but you can feel the desperation of other teams. There’s something to play for every game. We’re not satisfied to sit back. We always prefer to play games that mean something, and tonight’s points matter just as much to us as they do to Florida.”
Indeed, Florida is also in the hunt for a playoff spot – albeit one of the two remaining wild card berths – sitting just three points back of both the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators heading down the final stretch.
“I think once you got to the 15-game mark you knew things would start to tighten up. It’s just the way it’s going to be now, but luckily for us, we’ve been playing tight games since the halfway mark ourselves,” noted defenseman P.K. Subban. “Our games haven’t been too wide open so we’re used to playing that type of hockey, but if we’re thinking any team from here on in is going to let off the pedal – whether they’re in the playoffs or not – we’re going to be sadly mistaken. This team is playing for their playoff lives and we know they’re going to give it their best effort tonight.”
- Subban himself will also get a chance to give his best effort against a childhood idol on Saturday.
“A big part of my game is puck protection and being strong on the puck, but there’s no player who’s been better at it in his career than Jaromir Jagr,” admitted the Canadiens assistant captain, who ran into the 43-year-old Panthers forward during dinner on Friday. “A big part of my game comes from watching him play and my dad was always a big fan of Jagr’s when I was growing up. He always wanted me to be a player that was strong on the puck, just like him. Even today, when he’s on the ice, he doesn’t shy away from reminding me how strong he is on the puck sometimes. It’s amazing for someone who’s been playing the game for so long to be in as good shape as he’s in.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on TVA Sports and City TV.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Winnipeg Jets.
- Fifteen players took part in the on-ice session, in addition to both goaltenders. Missing were Lars Eller, P.K. Subban, Dale Weise, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Jeff Petry. All of them, however, should be in the lineup, as head coach Michel Therrien confirmed at Wednesday’s practice that there would be no lineup changes aside from Dustin Tokarski getting the start in goal.
- In Tokarski’s case, Thursday night’s outing will mark his 15th start of the season.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to play in Winnipeg. It will be special,” offered Therrien. “We want to play well in front of Ticker. We believe in him and the guys want to be good teammates.”
Following the morning skate, the Canadiens made that perfectly clear, adamant that they were committed to helping the Watson, SK native leave Winnipeg with his seventh victory of the season.
“It’s special for him to be so close to his family. He’ll have a lot of friends in the stands cheering for him. It’s a classy move on the part of the coaching staff to give him the start,” explained assistant captain Max Pacioretty. “The last time we played in front of him, we had success and I’m hoping it will be the same story tonight.”
Tokarski’s last start came back on March 17 in Sunrise when the Canadiens bested the Florida Panthers by a score of 3-2. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 41 of 43 shots against, including 21 shots in the third period alone.
- For their part, Paul Maurice’s contingent will welcome Dustin Byfuglien back to the lineup after missing the last nine games with an upper-body injury. The gritty rearguard boasts 15 goals and 42 points in 65 games during the 2014-15 campaign. He’s also chipped in with a team-leading 195 hits and 118 penalty minutes.
- Entering Thursday night’s contest, the Jets find themselves clinging to the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 88 points, two points up on the Los Angeles Kings. With eight games remaining on their regular season schedule, Winnipeg will be doing everything conceivably possible to rack up points in order to secure their first postseason berth since the franchise returned to the Manitoban capital for the 2011-12 season.
“We know they like to play in this building. They come out with a lot of speed and a lot of intensity. They’re hungry for points right now. They’re in a pretty important playoff race. We know it’s not going to be easy. They’re going to play physical and they’re going to make it tough,” offered Brendan Gallagher, referencing the Jets’ impressive 20-11-5 record in the friendly confines of their own building. “For us, we just need to focus on the same things that we always do to have success and not worry about them too much. We need to focus on what we need to do to come away with two points.”
In this case, that means showing up with the same type of effort they displayed on Tuesday night in Nashville, when they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Despite picking up just a single point, the Canadiens put up a good fight against Peter Laviolette’s squad at Bridgestone Arena. Simply put, they’ll have to do it again to collect that extra point this time around.
“We know that they’ve certainly got a lot of motivation,” mentioned Gallagher, who has two goals and four points in six career games against the Jets. “As of late, we’ve definitely upped our intensity level to match the desperation of teams we’re facing. We’re focusing on what we need to do to be playing our best hockey going into playoffs. We have enough motivation. We know the Jets are playing the same way.”
* If the Canadiens defeat the Jets in regulation or overtime, they would clinch a playoff berth if the Ducks defeat the Bruins in any fashion OR if the Bruins defeat the Ducks in a shootout.
* If the Canadiens defeat the Jets in a shootout, they would clinch a playoff berth if the Ducks defeat the Bruins in any fashion.
* If the Canadiens get one point against the Jets (overtime or shootout loss), they would clinch a playoff berth if the Ducks defeat the Bruins in regulation.
* The Canadiens cannot clinch a playoff berth if they lose to the Jets in regulation.
- After arriving in Winnipeg in the early hours on Wednesday, the Canadiens hit the ice at the MTS Centre for an afternoon practice in preparation for their tilt against the Jets on Thursday night.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Dustin Tokarski would get the start in goal against Paul Maurice’s contingent. It will be his 15th start of the season and his first career appearance versus Winnipeg.
"We want him to play and we want to keep Carey fresh. It's a perfect situation for Dustin. He'll play in front of a lot of family here," explained Therrien, who also indicated that a plan is already in place with respect to Carey Price's workload for the remainder of the regular season. "We've got a plan in place when it comes to Carey. I sat down with Stephane [Waite] and Carey to look at what type of preparation work we'd like to do ahead of the playoffs. We want him to be fresh both physically and mentally."
- The Canadiens’ bench boss also confirmed that there would be no lineup changes up front or on the back end come Thursday night. That means that Torrey Mitchell will once again take Manny Malhotra’s spot in the lineup, while Nathan Beaulieu will suit up in place of Tom Gilbert.
- Thursday night’s game will be particularly special for Dale Weise, who will play in front of friends and family in his hometown for the first time as a member of the Canadiens. In honor of the occasion, Weise just might find himself in the starting lineup.
"Those are things that we take into consideration," offered Therrien. "It's always special when a player comes home, especially wearing a Canadiens uniform. We expect him to have a lot of emotion in his game."
Forward lines at practice:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Parenteau
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
De La Rose – Eller – Weise
Prust – Mitchell – Smith-Pelly
- The Canadiens skated at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday morning ahead of their tilt against the Nashville Predators. Michel Therrien’s troops are going in search of a fourth straight victory, while Peter Laviolette’s contingent boasts the second-highest win total on home ice in the NHL. They also currently sit third in the Western Conference standings, just three points back of Anaheim for top spot.
“They’re a group that like to put a lot of pressure on guys. They’ve got a good defensive unit, an excellent goalie and a lot of speed, too. They put a lot of pressure on the opposing team and it’s tough to play against them,” explained Therrien, who has seen his club outscore their opponents by a 14-7 margin over the last five games. “We’ve got to make sure that we execute well against Nashville and that we jump on loose pucks. We’ll have to be on our toes and put pressure on them.”
- The Canadiens’ bench boss confirmed that Torrey Mitchell will return to the lineup on Tuesday night after missing the last four games with an upper-body injury. To make room for Mitchell, Manny Malhotra will be a healthy scratch. In addition, Nathan Beaulieu will be in the lineup in place of Tom Gilbert on defense.
- If the Predators boast plenty of firepower up front, the same can be said about the weapons they’ve got on the back end. Captain Shea Weber is among the best offensive rearguards in the NHL, and former Olympic teammate P.K. Subban acknowledged that once again on Tuesday, mentioning that he welcomed the challenge of trying to slow him down.
“I don’t like to talk about players from the other team, but Shea’s done so much in the League in such a short period of time and he’s one of the best in the League right now. He’ll probably go down as one of the best in the game. I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” offered Subban, who claimed gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi alongside the Sicamous, BC native. “That being said, I just have to focus on my job and what I have to do. I can’t focus on Shea. He’s their leader. He’s their captain. I just have to do my job. I’ll see him out there.”
He certainly will, particularly in situations when the Canadiens might find themselves down a man at any point in time. Weber is the epitome of a power play quarterback, boasting a slap shot that is nothing short of devastating. You’ll recall that Weber registered the second-hardest shot in the history of the All-Star skills competition back in January with a blast of 108.5 mph.
“It takes a lot more than courage to block one of his shots. We can go into detail about it, but I don’t know if I can discuss it on camera. He can break your ankle. He can break your leg. That’s how hard it is,” explained Subban, who sits seven points clear of Weber among the League’s top point-getting defensemen. “You have to be aware of that and focus on taking time and space away from him. I know that I like to shoot the puck as well. If you give someone time and space to shoot it, they can hurt somebody. That’s why Pricey has all that equipment on.”
- Carey Price will make his 60th start of the season on Tuesday night. He holds a 2-3-0 record, a 2.17 goals-against average, and a .943 save percentage in five career outings against Nashville. His opponent, Pekka Rinne, boasts a 3-1-1 record against the Canadiens, having given up just six goals in five starts.
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau had the opportunity to play against Rinne on a few occasions as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, and he insists that the Canadiens’ starter is still the best in the business.
“They’re two very different guys. But, I think Carey has shown things this year that just haven’t been seen before in the history of the game. I think he’s the best there is,” mentioned Parenteau, who went on to praise Rinne’s physical attributes and playing style between the pipes. “He’s a guy with big legs and big arms. He’s never out of it. He’s an excellent goaltender. He’s different than Carey, but they’re definitely the two top guys in the NHL.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS and Sportsnet East.
- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday before flying to Nashville ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Predators. Winners of their last three, the Habs now play a pair of games on the road – also visiting the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday – before returning home to Montreal for the weekend.
- Forward Torrey Mitchell was back at practice for the first time on Monday since suffering an upper body injury against the Islanders on March 14 which has kept him sidelined for four games. Head coach Michel Therrien hinted following practice that Mitchell could be in the lineup as soon as Tuesday.
- Therrien also confirmed that Carey Price, who is coming off back-to-back shutouts against the Hurricanes and Sharks, will be back in goal against the Predators. Rearguard Nathan Beaulieu will also be back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s 2-0 win as a healthy scratch.
- Tom Gilbert was absent from practice after suffering an upper body injury on Saturday. The 32-year-old defenseman did not make the trip to Nashville with his teammates, but could be ready to play at home this weekend against the Panthers.
- A significant portion of practice was dedicated to special teams on Monday. Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and P.-A. Parenteau were paired on the first wave of a power play unit in Brossard, while Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher formed the second wave during the morning skate.
OFFENSIVE LINES AND DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS AT PRACTICE
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Parenteau
Gallagher – Plekanec – Galchenyuk
Smith-Pelly – Eller – De La Rose
Prust – Malhotra/Mitchell – Weise
Subban – Markov
Emelin – Petry
Beaulieu – Pateryn
Gonchar – Weaver
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday, ahead of hosting the visiting San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre.
- Carey Price will be back in goal for the Habs on Saturday, making his 59th start of the season against the Sharks. On Thursday, Price set a new personal best, winning his career-high 39th game of the season against the Hurricanes.
- Jeff Petry will be back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s game with the flu. The 27-year-old defenseman will be paired with Alexei Emelin on the blue line, while Nathan Beaulieu should be a healthy scratch.
“I’m feeling a lot better than yesterday, and yesterday was a lot better than the day before, so I’m taking steps in the right direction,” confirmed Petry following practice.
- The Canadiens have scored seven goals in their last two games, but now face a tough task in keeping that offensive output alive against a Sharks team which has shut them out in each of their three previous meetings.
“There are some teams that get into your head,” admitted forward David Desharnais, who has nevertheless registered three points in four career games opposite the Sharks. “Obviously we didn’t play well in San Jose this year, but we’ve got 10 games left this season to show what we’re made of, including five at home. We want to be at our best in front of our fans and scoring a couple of goals against the Sharks tonight would be a good boost for our confidence.”
- Arriving in Montreal in the thick of a battle for one of the West’s final two wild card spots, the Sharks aren’t a team the Habs can take lightly heading down the stretch.
“It’s going to be a good test for us,” continued Desharnais. “We want to prepare ourselves for the playoffs by facing teams who are hungry for points. They might be big and strong, but we’re fast, so it should be a good matchup.”
Despite their spot in the standings, Devante Smith-Pelly knows better than most that this year’s point totals don’t tell the entire story regarding the perennial Pacific Division powerhouse.
“You look at their team on paper and it’s strange. They’ve always been big and fast every time I’ve played them, so it’s a little odd to see them so low in the standings,” acknowledged the former Anaheim Duck who will face the Sharks for the 11th time in his career on Saturday. “But if we just play the game we’re supposed to and stick to our systems we should be alright. You see where we are in the standings, so obviously that’s something we’ve been able to do for most of the season.”
Another recent Western Conference transplant echoed similar sentiments.
“They’re going to be hungry and desperate, and they’re going to be throwing everything they have at us,” added Petry. “We’re going to have to match their intensity and elevate our game in order to suppress theirs.”
- After securing a 4-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night in Montreal, the Canadiens were back at practice on Friday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. Michel Therrien’s troops will go in search of a third straight victory when they play host to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
- Prior to the start of practice, Torrey Mitchell hit the ice for a light workout with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine. Mitchell is still sidelined with an upper-body injury he suffered on March 14 against the New York Islanders.
- After missing Thursday’s practice/game with the flu, defenseman Jeff Petry was back at practice on Friday morning. Both Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais didn’t skate. Plekanec was given a therapy day, while Desharnais was out with the flu.
- After a day off on Wednesday, the Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell Centre.
- All players were present and accounted for at the morning skate, except for Torrey Mitchell (upper-body injury) and Jeff Petry, who didn’t hit the ice after coming down with the flu. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Petry is doubtful for Thursday night’s game, and that if the American rearguard is unable to play, Nathan Beaulieu will take his spot in the lineup. Beaulieu skated alongside Tom Gilbert during the on-ice session.
- The Canadiens’ bench boss made a minor tweak to his forward lines, featuring Brendan Gallagher back on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty, while Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated with David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk.
“I want there to be as much balance as possible when it comes to our lines. It’s crucial to spread the offense around,” offered Therrien, whose squad will be looking to complete the season sweep of the Hurricanes on Thursday night, outscoring Carolina by a 7-2 margin in their two previous meetings combined back in December. “We want and we need contributions from everybody to have success, even if it’s guys on the third and fourth lines or our defensemen.”
- Fresh off their win in Sunrise, the Canadiens are well aware that being outshot 21-4 in the third period – like they were in South Florida – isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. Michel Therrien’s troops appeared somewhat fatigued in the final frame at the BB&T Center, and they understand the need to avoid a similar letdown this time around.
“Sometimes, it’s just a matter of playing smarter. You can work hard, but you also have to work smart, making sure you’re putting the puck in good positions and retrieving it so you’re not always on defense and you’re not always chasing the game,” explained P.K. Subban, who is averaging a team-leading 26:11 of ice time per game. “I think we need to remember that we need to make smart decisions with the puck. We don’t want to turn the puck over. That doesn’t mean we want to take anything away from a player’s creativity. We want to make plays at the right time. If you don’t have the time or space to make a play, you want to chip the puck where you can get it back. I think we have to pay attention to those types of details to have success at this point in the season.”
Gallagher believes keeping the energy level up in the final frame is also a matter of playing smart with and without the puck, too.
“You just have to understand that we’re at our best when we’re rolling four lines and six defensemen. Everyone keeps their shifts short and line after line we’re coming at teams and wearing them down and making sure that as the games go on they’re getting tired,” offered Gallagher, who is one goal shy of reaching the 20-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career. “You try to avoid tough-minute shifts where you get caught out there too long and spend some time in your own end. You’ve just got to be smart and efficient with your ice time. If you do that, by the third period you should be fine.”
- Thirty-four points separate the Canadiens and the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference standings. That doesn’t mean anything to the CH, who aren’t about to take any opponent lightly this time of year.
“Regardless of what team we’ve played this year, we’ve just kept doing the same thing. We try to play the same way. We’re at our best when we’re playing a very specific style of hockey. It’s chipping pucks in and forechecking, using our speed and trying to work teams down that way. That’s how we create our offense. If we can stick to that game plan, I think we’ll be fine,” explained Gallagher, who has one goal and five points in five career regular season games against the Hurricanes. “They’ve got some really good players on that side, too, some world-class players. They’ve got guys who can hurt you. You’ve got to be aware of them. Whatever has happened with that team this year has happened. That’s not for us to worry about. We know that they’re still a very dangerous team.”
- Carey Price will make his 58th start of the season for the Canadiens. He boasts a 10-5-2 record, a 2.35 goals against average and a .928 save percentage in 17 career regular season appearances against Carolina. Anton Khudobin will be between the pipes for the Hurricanes.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS and Sportsnet East.
Projected lineup vs. Carolina:
Pacioretty - Plekanec - Gallagher
Galchenyuk - Desharnais - Parenteau
De La Rose - Eller - Smith-Pelly
Prust - Malhotra - Weise
Markov - Subban
Beaulieu - Gilbert
Emelin - Pateryn
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Monday morning ahead of their tilt against the Lightning.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that defenseman Alexei Emelin will make his return to the lineup on Monday night. He hasn’t played since February 18, when he was injured early on in a game in Ottawa.
“You need depth on the blue line. Right now, everyone’s healthy, which is a good thing. In Alexei’s case, he’s an important player in our defense corps because of his ability to be a physical presence,” offered Therrien, referencing Emelin’s team-leading 157 hits during the 2014-15 campaign. “Unfortunately, at the time of his injury, he was probably playing his best hockey of the season. We hope that he’ll be able to showcase the good things that he was doing before he was injured. We really liked what he was contributing to the team in terms of his physicality and the way he moved the puck. It was a big loss for our team when he went down. That’s why we’re happy to see him back.”
- The Canadiens’ bench boss was not prepared to discuss who would sit in place of Emelin, but he did indicate that he would not be using seven defensemen against the Lightning.
- With Torrey Mitchell sidelined with an upper-body injury, Brian Flynn returns to the Canadiens’ lineup on Monday night. He’s been a healthy scratch for the last two games, suiting up most recently on March 10 in the 1-0 overtime loss to the Lightning.
“It helps watching, but obviously I wanted to play. Hopefully, I can play well tonight and keep staying in there,” offered Flynn, who has played four games with the Canadiens since coming on board at the trade deadline earlier in the month. “I just need to skate well. If I’m playing center, I need to do a good job on my side on faceoffs and just be reliable defensively.”
- Solving Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has proven difficult for the Canadiens so far this season. Having conceded just three goals against in three games against the CH, Bishop has been a real thorn in their side. That’s something Michel Therrien’s troops will undoubtedly have to change tonight if they have any hope of besting a Lightning squad that has certainly proven what they’re capable of on offense.
“For starters, he covers up a lot of the net. He’s rarely off his angles, so it’s certainly tough to beat him with a shot. Like any goalie, though, there are ways to beat him, traffic and rebounds and just getting to the net,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who has three goals and five points in 10 career regular season games against Tampa Bay. “Their defensemen do a good job of blocking you out and making it difficult to get in there, but if you want to beat this team, you’re going to have to find ways to do that. Last game, I think they won the battles around the blue paint. I think tonight we’ve got to do a better job there."
- Price will make his 57th start of the season for the Canadiens on Monday night. He boasts a 10-9-5 record, a 2.44 goals-against average, and a .917 save percentage in 24 career regular season outings against the Lightning.