Michel Therrien refused to give details on the lines he’s planning to ice against the Lightning to kick off the first round, but he confirmed that Brandon Prust would be back in the lineup after missing the final 12 games of the season with an upper body injury.
“He’s had two good practices with our team. He’s excited and we’re all excited about him being back in the lineup,” explained Therrien, who has been without the services of the 30-year-old forward since March 18. “He’s a leader, he’s a tough guy to play against, he’s got speed, and most importantly, he’s a gamer.”
Facing a squad with 12 players who have yet to take part in an NHL Playoff game, the Canadiens will have the edge in the experience department against Tampa. With 28 postseason games under his belt, Prust has learned his share of playoff lessons over the years, but he also knows that once the puck drops on Wednesday night, there won’t be any playoff virgins left on either side and every player on the ice will be privy to those same lessons.
|Playoff media contingent|
“We have a lot of guys who have played in the playoffs, but you can’t underestimate young kids coming in like they have nothing to lose. They’re going to be excited to play and they’re going to be coming hard,” predicted Prust, who counts four points and 49 penalty minutes among his postseason totals. “With experience, you learn what it takes to win and you realize how hard it is and how much work it takes. It’s not easy. There are no shifts off and there are no nights off. You have to be ready and on your game every second. It’s the fastest hockey you play all year. You have to adjust and you have to adjust quickly.”
“What I like about Bournival is his speed,” explained Therrien, who will sit Ryan White in place of Bournival against the Bolts. “We’re playing against a fast team and he’s a great forechecker who can kill penalties. That’s a role he’s had for us this season. He’s going to be enjoying his playoff baptism since it’s his first playoff game in the NHL, so for sure he’ll be nervous but nerves can be a positive thing. He’s a guy who can make his mark in a game like this with his speed and his intensity.”
Tampa’s three goaltenders, Ben Bishop, Kristers Gudlevskis and Anders Lindback have played a combined one NHL playoff game in their careers, while Carey Price has seen action in the postseason 30 times in his career. While Lightning coach Jon Cooper would not reveal who his starter will be for Wednesday’s game, confirming only “not Ben Bishop”, the Canadiens won’t be changing their game plan no matter who Tampa puts between the pipes in Game 1. As expected, Price will get the start for Montreal, entering the series having posted an impeccable 1.42 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in four games against Tampa in 2013-14.
Price will play a big role in helping hold Tampa sniper Steven Stamkos off the scoresheet, but the Canadiens have shut down the NHL’s leading sharpshooters all season by employing a six-man approach to defense. Without the luxury of having last change on the road, Therrien will count on every player in his lineup to be responsible at both ends of the ice.
“First of all, we don’t have last change, and I’m not a fan of making hard changes,” shared the Habs bench boss. “I try to match as well as I can and anticipate, but my philosophy is that when guys are on the ice and it’s not the matchup we’re looking for, as a coach I’ve got to show confidence to the players that they can and will do the job for the team.”
Looking to maintain a business-as-usual approach to his first career NHL playoff series behind the bench, Cooper hasn’t changed much on the planning front ahead of Game 1, although he spent the morning skate juggling his lines to keep the Canadiens guessing on which combos will be together when the puck drops.
“If you want to see my lines, come to the game tonight,” joked the Lighting coach, who won the Calder Cup with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals in 2012. “The only difference [between the regular season and the playoffs] is we usually just have one little Web cam and now there are a few more cameras. And it’s a little hotter in this room. Other than that, we’re looking at this like Game 83 of the season we want to win.”
- Carey Price and Peter Budaj were first out on the ice under the supervision of goaltending coach Stephane Waite.
- Travis Moen made his return to practice. He wore a purple no-contact jersey and practiced alongside Ryan White and George Parros.
- The team worked on quick five-men breakouts in the first minutes of practice, then progressed to up-tempo rush drills.
- Lars Eller centered Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta. He should be good to go for Game 1.
- After practice, Michel Therrien did mention that his lines are subject to change before Wednesday night's Game 1.
LINES AT PRACTICE
- Lars Eller was back skating with his teammates after missing three games with an illness. Eller confirmed he’s back to 100% healthy and just needs to work on his timing to be ready for game situations.
“It was good to get back out there today and feel the ice. I’m sure that I’ll be fine for Wednesday,” confirmed the 25-year-old forward. “It was better getting sick there than a week later, but there’s never a good time to get sick.”
- Brandon Prust, who missed the last 12 games with an upper body injury, was also back with the team after working on body checking alongside strength coach Pierre Allard after Saturday’s morning skate. Prust is still considered day-to-day and Michel Therrien would not confirm whether he would be ready for Game 1 on Wednesday.
- Travis Moen (concussion) skated on his own earlier in the morning and did not join his teammates for the full practice.
- Therrien once again split the team into two groups, focused specifically on special teams work. Jean-Jacques Daigneault stayed on the first rink with the white team (penalty kill), while Gerard Gallant and Clement Jodoin worked on the power play with the red group, including P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty, Rene Bourque, Alexei Emelin, Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges, Brendan Gallagher, Daniel Briere, David Desharnais, Thomas Vanek.
The Canadiens' 1-0 overtime victory against the Rangers on Saturday moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and the home-ice edge in their first-round series. The Lightning need a victory against the Washington Capitals on Sunday to pass the Canadiens for second place.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Saturday morning ahead of their tilt against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre. Fifteen players took part in the on-ice session.
- Those present included forwards Ryan White, Dale Weise, Daniel Briere, George Parros, Michael Bournival, Brandon Prust, Mike Blunden and Brendan Gallagher, along with defensemen Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Mike Weaver, Alexei Emelin, Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi. Goaltender Peter Budaj was also on the ice.
- Brandon Prust skated alongside his teammates for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury in mid-March, taking to the ice for the duration of the morning skate. The 30-year-old also spent some added time with Canadiens strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard, working on absorbing physical contact along the boards.
It’s safe to say Prust’s return to practice was a welcome sight for Canadiens players and coaches, who are looking forward to welcoming the gritty left-winger – and his added facial hair – back to the lineup in short order.
“I really liked his beard out there today. I think it brought a little added motivation for the boys out there for the playoffs. That’s something special he’s got growing there. I kind of like it,” said right-winger Dale Weise, who enjoyed good on-ice chemistry with Prust before the London, ON native was injured three weeks ago. “Good for him to get back out there. He looked pretty good, and it looks like he should be good to go for the start of the playoffs.”
- Mike Blunden, who hasn’t suited up for the Canadiens since Nov. 1 against Minnesota, will be in the lineup on Saturday night against the Rangers in place of George Parros. Called up on Friday from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Blunden is chomping at the bit to see game action at such a critical time of year.
“I already know what Michel [Therrien] expects of me. I’m just going to go out there and do my best,” offered the 27-year-old right-winger, who has 10 goals, 22 points and 76 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Bulldogs during the 2013-14 campaign. “It’s the last game of the year. It’s a big game. We’re playing for home-ice advantage. It’s always fun playing on Saturday nights at the Bell Centre. I’m sure it’s going to be loud and crazy.”
- Lars Eller was not present at practice as he remains sidelined due to illness. He will not suit up against the Rangers on Saturday night.
- The Lightning’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets on Friday night vaulted head coach Jon Cooper’s squad ahead of the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division standings heading into the Habs’ final game of the regular season on Saturday night. The win also put Tampa Bay in the driver’s seat in the race to secure home-ice advantage for their opening-round matchup against Montreal, as they now lead the Canadiens by a single point.
After a tough outing against the Islanders earlier in the week, however, the Habs' primary focus remains on turning in a stellar effort against a Rangers squad that is also playoff-bound.
“We'd love to have home-ice advantage. That’s an especially good thing when you’re playing here in Montreal with the atmosphere that we can bring. But, the most important thing is that we’re playing the right way. We want to focus in on the details, and play a playoff-style game tonight,” offered Josh Gorges. “I don’t like using the term “must win”. We’ve got to prepare to win, and we’ve got to prepare the right way in order to win a big game. This is a good team we’re playing. More than anything, we want to make sure that we’re playing the right way. You can’t go in with the mindset of a must-win game. Hockey doesn’t work that way. But, if we play the right way, do the right things and give ourselves a chance, we can live with the outcome as long as we do things the right way.”
- The Canadiens announced the signing of goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a two-year contract extension on Saturday. Details are available here.
Words From The Room - Apr. 12
Game preview: MTL vs. NYR
Canadiens sign goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a two-year contract extension
The Montreal Canadiens have announced the recall of forward Mike Blunden from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
The 27-year old Blunden took part in six games with the Canadiens this season.
In 66 games with the Bulldogs in 2013-14, Blunden amassed 36 points, including 18 goals. The forward currently shares the team lead in goals with Gabriel Dumont and is ranked third in total scoring.
- After the first 15 minutes of practice, the coaching staff decided to divide and conquer. Players dressed in white remained on the primary ice surface while the other players, wearing red jerseys, headed onto the Complex’s second ice surface to work on the powerplay.
- The Tinordi-Murray and Bouillon-Weaver duos remained with Team White and practiced four-man breakout formations under the supervision of assistant coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault.
- Both teams then reconvene on the primary ice, with Team Red setting up in a powerplay formation and Team White, holding their sticks blade-side up, trying to thwart the attack.
- The team tried out a few different looks on the man advantage, including sending a forward to the opposing blueline on the breakout to facilitate a breakaway pass and getting defensemen to play deeper in the zone to create back-door scoring chances.
- Peter Budaj appeared to be shaken up on a jam play in from of the net, but finished the practice looking no worse for wear.
- Lars Eller, who missed the two previous games, was absent at practice due to illness. Brandon Prust and Travis Moen were also out, but both are on schedules in their injury recoveries.
- Prospects Jacob de la Rose and Mac Bennett are in town. Both players took to the ice in Brossard before the Habs’ practice, met with the team’s medical staff to discuss their respective minor injuries, and had a chance to get acquainted with the team training facilities.
LINES AT PRACTICE
- Following the Canadiens-Islanders match-up on Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens have announced that forward Alex Galchenyuk suffered a lower-body injury during the game against the Blackhawks the previous night. The 20-year old player will miss the first round of the playoffs.
- Following Thursday night's game, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Canadiens Hall of Fame unveiled a wax statue of Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, gifted by the famous Grevin museum. In attendance at the ceremony were Geoff Molson, Guy Lafleur, Rejean Houle, Marc Bergevin and members of the Richard family.
“I thought the statue was very well done,” offered Geoff Molson, the owner of the Canadiens. “Especially the eyes. You could really see the passion in those eyes.”
Starting tomorrow, visitors to the Canadiens Hall of Fame can experience the Rocket’s passion first-hand by making a stop at the section dedicated to the Habs’ number 9. The latest addition to the exhibit is a fitting tribute to the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer, one of the great players in hockey history.
- Only a few players skated at the Bell Sports Complex on Thursday morning ahead of the tilt against the Islanders.
- Defenseman Douglas Murray has finished serving his three-game suspension for a hit on Tampa Bay's Michael Kostka. He will be available for the game against the Islanders.