- After falling 6-2 to the Stars in Dallas on Saturday night, the Canadiens practiced at the Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville on Sunday afternoon. Birthday boy Andrei Markov was the only player not on the ice for practice.
- Despite missing the end of Saturday’s game with an upper body injury, Jeff Petry was back on the ice on Sunday with his teammates at practice.
- Having racked up just three goals in the last three games, Michel Therrien looked to rekindle the offensive spark that saw the Canadiens score 35 goals in their first nine games of the campaign – all wins – by juggling his lines at practice. Dale Weise was slotted onto a line alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, while Alex Galchenyuk moved back to the middle, centering a line with Daniel Carr and Lars Eller.
Lines at practice
- The Canadiens held a morning skate at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday morning ahead of their game against the Stars, who are tied with the Capitals atop the league standings with 48 points.
- After being recalled from the IceCaps on Friday, Michael McCarron flew to Dallas and joined the Canadiens on the ice for practice. The 6-foot-6 forward skated on a line with Paul Byron and Lars Eller in the morning and coach Michel Therrien confirmed he would be slotting his big forward in on the power play as a net-front threat.
“I was flying from St. John’s to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California to visit my sister – she’s a nurse out there. I had just landed and was in her car for maybe five minutes when the GM from St. John’s called me. Chills went down my body and it was the best feeling I’ve probably ever had,” shared McCarron, who has racked up 24 points in 28 AHL games in his rookie pro campaign. “I’m a big body. I play hard, I get to the net, and I finish my checks. I just want to help this team win some hockey games. It’s my first NHL game, so hopefully the nerves will be out pretty early and I’ll play well. I feel lucky to have this opportunity and I’m going to run with it.”
- The Habs’ defense corps will look to slow down the NHL’s hottest offensive squad on Saturday, as the Stars currently lead the league with an average of 3.34 goals-per-game. Dallas’ Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are sitting second and third in the league behind Patrick Kane with 42 and 41 points, respectively.
“They score goals. Tonight will be a challenge for us to see if we can play in their end. The best defense for us is playing offense,” said Max Pacioretty, who is leading the Canadiens with 14 goals this season. “When you’re playing against top lines, you need to counter them with playing good offense. We don’t want to play defense against this team; we want to keep them out of our end and force them to make mistakes in their end.”
- That’s what Therrien is hoping for from his newly-formed top trio, consisting of Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Alex Galchenyuk, who were thrown together at the end of Thursday’s game against the Kings.
“When we put them together last game, they had a lot of scoring chances,” mentioned the Habs bench boss. “They didn’t get the results, but you have to look at their puck possession stats and scoring chances and things like that. I really like their dynamic. I don’t have last change tonight, but I’m very comfortable if they end up out there against the top line.”
- If the Stars have shown one weakness this season, it has been the effectiveness of their penalty kill, sitting 20th in the NHL with a 79.6% efficiency. The Habs’ power play will be looking to exploit that on Saturday night, having been blanked with the man advantage in seven-straight games, going 0-for-21 on the power play in that span.
“We don’t look too much into where they are in the standings; we look more at their tendencies, but the focus is more on us,” explained Jeff Petry, who averages 2:01 of power play ice time per game. “We can’t be looking for the perfect play. We just have to get pucks to the net and look for rebounds. We’re going to get greasy goals. You get a couple of those and that will help build the confidence.”
- Mike Condon will be between the pipes against the Stars, marking the rookie netminder’s 19th start of the season and seventh on road ice. In his six previous road starts, Condon has posted a 4-1-1 record.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST and is available on CITY TV, TVA Sports, and NHLN-US, in addition to 98,5FM and TSN 690.
LINES AND DEFENSE PAIRINGS AT PRACTICE
Game preview: Canadiens vs. Stars
Words from the room
A first-round selection of the Canadiens in 2013, McCarron has amassed 13 goals and 24 points in 28 games during the 2015-16 campaign – his first season as a pro. The 6-foot-6 centerman, who weighs in at 231 pounds, has also racked up 48 penalty minutes and a plus-1 differential.
The Michigan native also registered his second hat trick of the year in his last outing on Wednesday night against Albany.
MONTREAL - The Canadiens announced that forward Charles Hudon has been transferred to the St. John's IceCaps Friday morning.
In two games with the Canadiens this season, Hudon registered two assists. The Quebec native returns to the Habs AHL affiliate where he has has amassed 10 goals and 20 points in just 24 games.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre. Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi and Alexei Emelin hit the ice, as did forwards Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, Alex Galchenyuk, Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon and Daniel Carr. Goaltenders Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski were also present. For his part, captain Max Pacioretty took some time to work on his shot prior to the on-ice session.
- Head coach Michel Therrien will make only one change to his lineup on Thursday night, electing to start Mike Condon in goal. Condon came on in relief of Dustin Tokarski on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. It will mark his first start since December 9 against the Boston Bruins. Jonathan Quick should get the start for the Kings.
- The Pacific Division leading Kings have been playing solid hockey as of late, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. In the midst of a six-game road trip, Darryl Sutter’s squad arrives in Montreal with a 19-9-2 record and 40 points on the year, but they dropped their most recent outing to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night which snapped their nine-game point streak. Following that defeat, the Kings made their way to Mont-Tremblant, where they’ve spent the past couple of days recharging their collective batteries and getting ready for their fifth straight contest away from the friendly confines of home.
“It’s going to be a tough one tonight. They’re so big and they skate so well. It’s going to be a tough challenge. The biggest thing is that we’ll have to make them play our game early. They control the play so well, that’s why we’ll have to use our building to our advantage. The crowd is always behind us,” explained defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who was paired with P.K. Subban at one point during Tuesday night’s loss to the Sharks, and remained alongside the Norris Trophy winner at practice on Wednesday. “We’ll have to get some momentum going. If we swing it the right way, we’ll have some success early on.”
Not only do the Kings have potent offensive weapons up front in Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Milan Lucic and Anze Kopitar, but they also boast one of the finest rearguards in the league in Drew Doughty, who, like Beaulieu, hails from Southwestern Ontario.
“He’s probably the best all-around defenseman in the league. He’s very sneaky and he’ll kill you in both zones. They actually have one of the best defensive groups in the league. They do everything so well and they’re mobile,” praised Beaulieu, who trains with Doughty during the offseason in London, ON. “He’s definitely a solid guy, and we’ll have to pay special attention to him tonight.”
- The Canadiens have been struggling to find the back of the net as of late. Losers of five of their last six games, Michel Therrien’s troops have scored just 11 goals during that span, and been held to two goals or less in all five of those defeats.
Alex Galchenyuk knows full well that something has to change if the Canadiens hope to get things back on track as they get set to play their final home game before hitting the road for their next eight outings.
“I think we have to get more shots though to the net. We have to get after the rebounds. We have to be more aggressive and hungrier out there. When things aren’t going well, you need to simplify things a bit,” shared Galchenyuk, who hasn’t lit the lamp since November 28. “But, we still have confidence in ourselves. Not too long ago, we had the best power play in the league. We have to find a way to get back to that.”
Galchenyuk definitely has a point there, as the Canadiens have failed to capitalize with the man advantage since December 1, going 0-for-18 in their last six games.
- Things appear to be looking up for Devante Smith-Pelly, who continues to recover from a lower-body injury. The 23-year-old winger skated again on Thursday morning, working out on the Bell Sports Complex’s secondary ice rink.
“I just started skating two days ago by myself, so we’re kind of ramping it up here. Hopefully, I can get back in the lineup before the Christmas break,” offered Smith-Pelly, who hasn’t seen game action since December 3 against the Washington Capitals. “Any time you have to sit out is bad, but it was kind of a lingering thing that the training staff and coaching staff thought it would be better to take a couple of weeks off and make sure I was 100 percent. It’s not really fair to my teammates or myself to not be playing to my full capacity, so I’m taking the time off now and hopefully I stay healthy the rest of the way.”
During his time on the sidelines, Smith-Pelly has been paying close attention to his team’s play while thinking about his own game, too. He believes the time spent out of the lineup might just help him when he’s finally ready to play again.
“It gives you a chance to step back, kind of reflect on your game and maybe look at it from a different view. Maybe it improves my game when I come back, but obviously it’s tough when you can’t be out there helping out,” mentioned Smith-Pelly, who has put up three goals and eight points in 26 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “I see most of these games that we’re outplaying the other team. I don’t know if it’s puck luck or just guys being snake bitten, but I think over the last six games, the last four or five we deserved a better fate. As long as we keep going, it’ll turn around quick here.”
The Canadiens assigned forward Zack Kassian to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps on Wednesday after the 24-year-old cleared waivers.
Kassian was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA at the beginning of October, and was suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.
- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday morning ahead of hosting the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre.
- Goaltender Dustin Tokarski’s third start of the season will also be his third in a row for the Habs. The 26-year-old is coming off a 3-2 loss in Detroit on Thursday and a 3-1 win against Ottawa on Saturday. Tokarski has a 0.912 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average over 138 minutes of ice time in 2015-16.
- Torrey Mitchell will be back in the lineup after missing the last 11 games with a lower body injury. Mitchell will replace Charles Hudon and practiced on a line with Sven Andrighetto and Brian Flynn.
“I’m going to keep things simple. I missed three weeks of action and will need to find my bearings on the ice,” admitted the 30-year-old who returns in time to face the team which drafted him in 2004.
Mitchell's return notably gives head coach Michel Therrien another weapon on a penalty kill unit that is currently enjoying a 90.6% efficiency.
“We watched film of the Sharks’ power play unit this morning. They’ve got a dangerous group,” continued the Greenfield Park, QC native. “We’ll have to be disciplined and not give up any chances.”
- The Sharks arrive in Montreal having lost their last six, while the Habs snapped a four-game skid against the Senators on Saturday in convincing fashion, winning 3-1 at home.
Having jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against the Sens, the Canadiens will be counting on a similarly quick start against San Jose.
“That’s the challenge with playing professional sports -- bringing the same intensity every night. They’re a good, experienced team, and are capable of putting the puck in the net,” acknowledged P.K. Subban, who has one assist in five career meetings with the Sharks.
If the Canadiens are going to become the second team to reach 100-plus goals scored this season -- the club is currently sitting at 99 -- then Subban insists its trademark speed will be key.
“We’re going to have to play solid defensively, and come hard on the forecheck. They’re smart in terms of how they take away your options, so we’re going to have to move the puck quickly and move ourselves as well.”
- Flynn will play his 200th career game in the NHL on Tuesday. Since making his big-league debut with the Buffalo Sabres on March 2, 2013, Flynn has registered 21 goals and 28 assists in his first 199 games played, and is currently on pace for career bests in both categories this season.
“He’s contributing to this team and he’s a key role player,” dished Alex Galchenyuk of the 27-year-old forward who counts four goals and four assists through 31 games in 2015-16. “His speed and skill allow him to make great plays, and he’s been a big part of this team since arriving here. I’m happy for him because he’s a great guy and a great player.”
Flynn has averaged a point per game against the Sharks, with two goals and an assist over three career meetings with San Jose.
- Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice:
Fleischmann – Desharnais – Carr
Andrighetto – Mitchell – Flynn
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Byron
Weise – Galchenyuk – Eller
Markov - Subban
Beaulieu - Gilbert
Petry – Emelin
Pateryn – Tinordi
- After a day off on Sunday, the Canadiens returned to practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday morning in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre.
- About an hour before practice began, Devante Smith-Pelly hit the ice with the Canadiens’ head athletic therapist Graham Rynbend to continue rehabbing his lower-body injury. The 23-year-old hasn’t played since December 3 against the Washington Capitals.
- Before the formal practice session got underway on the main rink, the Canadiens worked on special teams, focusing both on the power play and penalty kill. Once the guys were done, Brendan Gallagher skated with strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard to begin his on-ice rehab work as he continues to recover from surgery on two fractured fingers on his left hand.
- Following practice, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Dustin Tokarski will get the start in goal against the Sharks. It will mark his third straight outing between the pipes.
- Therrien also confirmed that Torrey Mitchell “should” make his return to active duty on Tuesday night. Mitchell, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury, hasn’t played since November 19 against Arizona.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Paul Byron
Lars Eller – Alex Galchenyuk – Dale Weise
Tomas Fleischmann – David Desharnais – Brian Flynn
Daniel Carr – Torrey Mitchell – Sven Andrighetto
The Canadiens assigned forward Christian Thomas to the AHL's St. John’s IceCaps on Sunday afternoon.
Since being recalled back on November 26, the 23-year-old Toronto native amassed two assists and a plus-1 differential in five games while logging an average of 8:37 of ice time per outing. Those assists, meanwhile, also just happened to be the first two helpers of his NHL career.
Thomas, who last suited up for the Canadiens on December 9 against Boston, heads back to Newfoundland having already registered seven goals and 14 points in 18 games with Sylvain Lefebvre’s squad during the 2015-16 campaign.
- After recharging the batteries with a day off on Friday, the Canadiens were back on the ice in Brossard ahead of their match-up against the Ottawa Senators Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
- All players were accounted for with the exception of Devante Smith-Pelly, Brendan Gallagher and Carey Price who are currently on the injured reserve list. Torrey Mitchell returned to practice with teammates for the first time since suffering a lower body injury in mid-November.
- Dustin Tokarski will be back in goal to face the Senators Saturday night at the Bell Centre. It will be the 26-year-old goalkeeper’s second start of the season. Tokarski, who has a 0-2-0 record against Dave Cameron’s Senators, will look to improve upon his 3.09 goals-against average and save percentage of 0.917.
"When Pacioretty and Plekanec are together, at this point that’s when they have been the most productive. Your best players have to be your best players and we rely on them to contribute.” explained coach Michel Therrien about the Habs most productive duo, tied with the Tomas Fleischmann/David Desharnais, with 13 goals where both players contributed points. “Pacioretty and Galchenyuk did not score in two games, so we decided to go back to that combination that worked so well at the beginning of season.”
- Lines at practice
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Byron
Eller – Galchenyuk – Weise
Carr – Desharnais – Fleischmann
Andrighetto – Flynn – Hudon
Petry – Emelin
Gilbert - Beaulieu
Markov – Subban
Pateryn – Tinordi
- Charles Hudon will play his second career game and his first at the Bell Centre since being recalled on December 8 from the St. John’s IceCaps. If he felt nervous Thursday night in Detroit, number 54 says he will probably feel even more butterflies in his stomach but expects that Saturday night will be quite the memorable evening.
"The magic comes back every time I set foot in the Bell Centre, even when I don’t play. Since I was drafted, it is always incredible playing at the Bell Centre, even for preseason games," noted the former fifth round pick at the 2012 draft in Pittsburgh. “It's always great to be there, but tonight is going to be a big game. You have to play hard for the full 60 minutes, not just 40 minutes like last game."
"Sven and I have known each since last year. We have played almost the entire season together and we have good chemistry on and off the ice,” provided Hudon, who collected his first NHL point Thursday night with an assist on Andrighetto’s second period goal. “He's a fast skater. When I give him the puck, his goal is to skate hard and get the puck in the zone quickly. He’s a hard worker and I think things are going well these days."
“I think I can improve all parts of my game from the way I played last couple games,” acknowledged Beaulieu who watched the Canadiens previous game against the Red Wings from the press box of the Joe Louis Arena. “Just as a defensive core we haven’t been good enough. All areas can improve. We were generating more offense at the beginning of the season. So I think we just need to get back to basics. We need to get pucks through and get bodies to the net.”
Coming off a career high 64 games played last season, the 23-year-old defenseman looks for the silver lining in an otherwise frustrating situation.
“As a pro you always have to look for the positive in things. Whether you are being sent down or called up, or having ups and downs during the season, as a pro you always have to try and find the positive in those situations. I’ve been pro for a couple years now and it’s my job and my duty to try to find the positive in the situation,” offered Beaulieu, who has already matched his point totals from last season with 9 points through the first 29 games this year. “I have time to think and regroup. Obviously my play hasn’t been up to standard so they gave me a night off to think about it.”
- Having watched back-to-back third period leads slip away against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night and the Detroit Red Wings the following evening, Jeff Petry and the Habs defense corps look to rebound tonight against the Senators.
“Throughout the course of the season you are going to go through ups and downs. I would say this is our chance to face adversity. Losing four in a row is not the ideal situation but I think it is important to show what kind of character this team has. It is not just going to happen that we just snap out of it. We have to work hard to get out of this and I think this group has the ability to do so,” explained the rearguard who recently turned 28-years-old on December 9. “I think we just need to clean up a few aspects. The last couple games we had leads in the third period and we have given up chances that have resulted in goals. It’s just a matter of when we have a lead in the third period to not give up chances. We have not been as sharp getting pucks out of the zone and teams are dangerous when you turn the puck over.”
At the beginning of the 2015-16 season timely goals from the blue-line helped propel the team to a record start to the year. With a lineup depleted by injuries, the Canadiens are looking to recapture that offensive spark.
“I do not have an explanation for why goals from the defensemen are down. Through the course of the season you will get bounces that go your way,” continued the Ann Arbor native who has three goals and eight assists to his credit this season. Obviously we have to put more pucks on net, our forwards are doing their job of getting to the net, so we as defenseman have to find a way to get more pucks through.”
- Saturday night’s contest marks the third clash between the two Atlantic Division rivals this season. The two combatants split the first two games of the season series, with both victories going the way of the road team.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on CBC, TVAS and CITY