MONTREAL - Hundreds of lucky Habs fans got to hop onto the Bell Centre ice on Saturday as part of the Canadiens Skating Party in collaboration with McCain.
Joined at ice level by Alex Galchenyuk, Dustin Tokarski, Manny Malhotra, Michael Bournival, Jiri Sekac, Tom Gilbert and Sven Andrighetto, Saturday's contest winners had the opportunity to take photos and collect autographs from current Habs players.
Even Youppi! showed off his smoothest strides, lacing up his skates to join those in attendance.
Congratulations to all the contest winners at today's Canadiens Skating Party. pic.twitter.com/UOxXX0FX5B— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 13, 2014
Évidemment, Youppi! est de la partie. / Youppi! is never one to miss a party. pic.twitter.com/33iU316LM8— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 13, 2014
- The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday ahead of their tilt against the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre.
- The Habs are coming off a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks back on Tuesday, while Darryl Sutter’s club downed the Senators 5-3 in Ottawa on Thursday night to snap a two-game losing streak. Los Angeles will be playing the third game of a five-game road trip.
- Thirteen players elected to hit the ice for the duration of the skate, including forwards Tomas Plekanec, Michael Bournival, Jiri Sekac, Sven Andrighetto, Dale Weise, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Prust, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Manny Malhotra and Eric Tangradi. Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was also present, as was goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
- The Habs aren’t expected to make any lineup changes for Friday night’s game, meaning that head coach Michel Therrien will likely field the same lineup that went up against the Canucks on Tuesday night in Montreal.
- The Kings were anything but kind to the Canadiens last season, winning both matchups between the two clubs by outscoring Michel Therrien’s troops by an 8-1 margin. That included a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champions just over a year ago in Montreal. Brendan Gallagher certainly hasn’t forgotten about that loss.
“It’s going to be a challenge. We remember last year when they came in here and things didn’t go so well for us. Hopefully, we can get a better result this year,” mentioned Gallagher, who boasts two goals and three points in his last three games. “We know what they’re all about. They play hard. All throughout their lineup they’re going to finish checks, they’re going to make it tough on us, they’re going to try to grind us down. It’s going to be important for us to try to stick to our game plan and what our strengths are. We’re going to try to use our speed and play on the forecheck in the offensive zone. Hopefully, we can generate offense that way.”
That will be easier said than done against a Kings contingent that ranks third in the league in goals-against per game. Los Angeles, however, has struggled away from the friendly confines of the Staples Center, posting just four road wins thus far this season. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau insists that while the Kings are a complete team, they aren’t unbeatable.
“They’re very good defensively, they have a good goalie, they play as one team. They haven’t won two Stanley Cup titles as of late for nothing,” mentioned Parenteau. “But, they still have some weaknesses in their game that we can exploit. If we skate and put pressure on them, it won’t be any different than going up against any of the other teams.”
- Alex Galchenyuk put on a brilliant performance on Tuesday night against the Canucks, demonstrating that he was perfectly comfortable playing the center position on a line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. After going head-to-head with the Sedins earlier in the week, Galchenyuk & Co. will likely match up against the likes of Anze Kopitar on Friday night.
“When the game starts, I’m trying to focus on my game and what I can bring to the table to help my team win. I don’t worry about what the players on their team will do,” insisted Galchenyuk, who won 62 percent of his draws on Tuesday night. “When you start to think too much about them, you lose your focus on your own game.”
Gallagher is adamant that Galchenyuk is ready for this next challenge.
“I think he’s excited for it. When you look at the job he did last game, I think he was really excited to play against one of the best players in the world and it’s no different tonight. He did a really good job last game of using his speed, and being above the puck and on the right side of the puck. That created a lot of chances offensively,” praised Gallagher. “That’s really the only way you can play to be successful. He did a really good job last game and I’m confident he’ll do it again.”
- Tuesday’s game was emotional for everyone in attendance at the Bell Centre, especially the players. It should come as no surprise that Michel Therrien’s troops have broached the subject of dedicating the 2014-15 campaign to one of the greatest legends in team history, Mr. Jean Béliveau.
“I think amongst ourselves it’s something we’ve talked about a little bit. We paid a little bit of a tribute to him last game with the energy we had. Just looking up and seeing Mrs. Béliveau sitting there and cheering, and Mr. Béliveau’s sweater sitting on his seat. That’s going to stay there all year, so we can draw some inspiration from that for sure,” explained Gallagher. “He’s a guy who represented this organization better than anyone and set the bar for what the standards are going to be for everyone that gets to put on that jersey. There is certainly some inspiration that we can draw from him. Hopefully, we can use it going forward.”
- Carey Price will make his 25th start of the season for the Canadiens on Friday night. He boasts a 3-1-0 record, a 2.64 goals-against average, and a .910 save percentage in four career outings against the Kings.
- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning in preparation for their Friday night tilt against the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre.
- Defenseman P.K. Subban did not take part in Thursday’s on-ice session as he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed, however, that he should be good to go against the Kings on Friday.
- In Subban’s absence, Andrei Markov’s D partner was assistant coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault, who patrolled NHL blue lines himself for 10 different teams over the course of his playing career. Nathan Beaulieu lined up alongside Tom Gilbert, while Alexei Emelin skated with Sergei Gonchar.
- Therrien did not feature any changes to his forward lines at practice, keeping the lines that were used against the Canucks back on Tuesday night intact.
- In his post-practice press conference, the Canadiens' bench boss indicated that defenseman Bryan Allen, who is currently sidelined due to illness, was kept away from the team for precautionary reasons. He should, however, rejoin the team over the weekend.
- For a second straight day, injured forward Lars Eller hit the ice prior to the start of practice with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine. On Wednesday, the Canadiens announced that Eller would be sidelined for 1-2 weeks with an upper-body injury.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Gallagher – Galchenyuk – Pacioretty
Sekac – Plekanec – Andrighetto
Parenteau – Desharnais – Bournival
Weise – Malhotra – Prust
- After securing an emotional 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the Canadiens were back at practice on Wednesday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. Michel Therrien’s troops will be back in action against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night in Montreal.
- Just before 9 a.m., Lars Eller hit the ice with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine. It was the first time Eller has laced up his skates since suffering an upper-body injury back on December 5 in a tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks. The forward spent about 15 minutes on the ice. He will be sidelined for 1-2 weeks.
- Head coach Michel Therrien featured no line changes at practice, fielding the same forward lines that went up against the Canucks on Tuesday night. The focus of Wednesday's practice was primarily on special teams.
“The penalty killing units skated a lot today. I’m convinced that the guys on offense had a good time,” offered Dale Weise with a smile. “There were a lot of starts and a lot of stops. You had to move out of the way a lot so you wouldn’t get hit by a slap shot. It’s good to work on special teams. We’ve got two days to practice, so we’ve got to manage things ahead of Friday’s game. We don’t want to go too hard. But, I really like what I saw from the guys on the power play today.”- Defensemen Mike Weaver (concussion) and Bryan Allen (illness) did not take part in the on-ice session on Wednesday.
- Immediately after practice, players and coaches boarded a bus bound for Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in downtown Montreal to attend the funeral of Mr. Jean Béliveau.
“It will be an emotional day. We're looking forward to being able to pay our final respects,” mentioned Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau prior to the team's departure for the funeral. “On Tuesday night, we got a taste of the emotion that we'll experience today.”
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Gallagher – Galchenyuk – Pacioretty
Sekac – Plekanec – Andrighetto
Parenteau – Desharnais – Bournival
Weise – Malhotra – Prust
Gilbert – Beaulieu
Markov – Subban
Emelin – Gonchar
Three Canadiens prospects -- Martin Reway (Slovakia), Jacob De La Rose (Sweden) and Artturi Lehkonen (Finland) -- have been invited to their respective WJC selection camps ahead of this month’s tournament set to take place in Montreal and Toronto.
Reway, drafted 116th overall by the Habs in 2013 has registered five goals and 16 assists in 22 games with Sparta Praha in the Czech Extraliga this season.
De La Rose, selected 34th overall by Montreal in 2013 has registered three goals and two assists in 24 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15.
Lehkonen, a second round Canadiens draft pick selected 55th overall in 2013 has picked up four goals and seven assists in 28 games with Frolunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League this year.
The 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship runs from December 26, 2014 to January 5, 2015 at the Bell Centre in Montreal and at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Tickets for the tournament can be purchased here.
- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday ahead of their tilt against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre. The Habs will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak, while the Canucks will be playing the final game of a seven-game road trip that began back on November 28.
- Prior to Tuesday night’s game, the Canadiens will pay tribute to Hall-of-Famer Jean Béliveau, who passed away last week at the age of 83. It will be undoubtedly be an emotional night for all involved, including Michel Therrien’s troops, all of whom had great admiration for what the Trois-Riviéres native accomplished both on and off the ice.
“It’s absolutely added motivation. We’ve been talking about it for a few days now. Going to the wake on Monday was something special. When you hear how everyone talks about Mr. Béliveau, nobody ever says a bad word about him. In my mind, he embodies what it means to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens,” offered Manny Malhotra, before going on to say that the team will play Tuesday night’s game in Béliveau’s honor. “He embodied the mentality of a champion. Our effort will represent the essence of Jean Béliveau.”
- After being called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu took part in the morning skate alongside his teammates. The 22-year-old rearguard, who was sent down to the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate on November 24, will be featured in Michel Therrien’s lineup on Tuesday night for the first time since November 18 against the Penguins.
“It’s not easy to stay here, especially on such a good hockey club. When you’re given opportunities like this, it’s really important to grasp them and make the most of them,” offered Beaulieu, who has two assists and a minus-3 differential in 14 games with the Canadiens this season. “This time, I felt like I needed a few games down in Hamilton. I wasn’t playing a whole lot. Sometimes, you lose a few aspects of your game. I went down and I played lots of hockey. I got my confidence and a little bit of my swagger back. I was more offensive, like I usually am. I thought I played good hockey, so it was important to go down for a few games and get that mental aspect back before I came back here. It was really good for me. ”
Beaulieu will take Bryan Allen’s spot in the lineup. Allen, who missed Monday’s practice due to illness, did not take part in the morning skate on Tuesday and was placed on injured reserve.
- In the absence of Lars Eller, head coach Michel Therrien elected to juggle his forward lines at practice on Monday. The Canadiens’ bench boss will utilize those new line combinations against Willie Desjardins’ club on Tuesday night. Alex Galchenyuk will center a line with wingers Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty.
“We want to get him going from the start. I’ve talked to Alex. We don’t want him to change his style of play. We want him to stay himself and to be creative. We want him to make good decisions. It’s the same message, whether he’s at center or on the wing,” mentioned Therrien. “Whether it’s in the offensive zone, the neutral zone or in our own end, whether you’re the first, second or third player in there, there’s a certain way to react. The only thing that can change in Alex’s case is that he’ll have possession of the puck more often in the neutral zone. He needs to make sure that he reads the play the right way. We don’t want to put any additional pressure on him.”
With the return of Michael Bournival to the Canadiens’ lineup, the solid play of Sven Andrighetto in Dallas, and the lack of offense as of late, Therrien also made several other tweaks that he hopes will prove to be productive against Vancouver.
“Having new linemates on your left and your right sides forces players to communicate. Instead of always wearing the same pair of shoes, putting on a fresh pair sometimes helps out. It forces communication and attention to detail. A lot of small things can come from it that can be beneficial,” explained Therrien, who will feature Andrighetto alongside Tomas Plekanec and Jiri Sekac, in addition to Bournival on a line with Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and David Desharnais.
“Sometimes, it’s good to mix things up a little bit,” stressed Prust. “It’s exciting to play with new guys. It brings a different sort of energy. We can try new things. It never hurts.”
- Defenseman Mike Weaver will not suit up against the Canucks on Tuesday night. He suffered a concussion in Saturday night’s loss against the Stars in Dallas. For his part, Lars Eller, who was injured in last Friday night’s tilt in Chicago, will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Tuesday.
- Carey Price will make his 24th start of the season on Tuesday night. Price boasts a 5-1-2 record against Vancouver over the course of his NHL career, in addition to a 2.34 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Ryan Miller will get the start in goal for the Canucks.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Pacific and RDS.
Forward lines at the morning skate:
Game Preview: Canadiens vs. Canucks
A fitting tribute
Searching for a spark
The Canadiens called up defenseman Nathan Beaulieu from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday afternoon. The 22-year-old rearguard will join the team at practice on Tuesday morning in Brossard.
Assigned to the Habs’ AHL affiliate on November 24, Beaulieu scored one goal and registered a pair of assists over six games with the Bulldogs. In 14 games this season with the Canadiens, the Strathroy, ON native has totaled two assists and 15 penalty minutes while going a minus-3 on the ice.
- After a day off on Sunday following a four-game road swing, the Canadiens were back at practice on Monday afternoon at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. The Habs will be back in action on Tuesday night when they take on the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Weaver suffered a concussion in Saturday night’s loss in Dallas, and that the veteran rearguard will not suit up against the Canucks on Tuesday night. He also confirmed that Eller underwent tests for his injury on Monday.
- The Canadiens bench boss made some moves up front on Monday, featuring Alex Galchenyuk at center on a line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, while David Desharnais centered a line with Michael Bournival and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau. For his part, young gun Sven Andrighetto, who scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night in Dallas, skated with Tomas Plekanec and Jiri Sekac.
- Mr. Jean Beliveau lay in wake for a second straight day at the Bell Centre on Monday. Those wishing to pay their respects to the Hall-of-Famer and his family can do so until 6 p.m. EST. Mr. Beliveau’s funeral will be held on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Forward lines at practice:
- The Canadiens practiced at the United Center ahead of their game against the Blackhawks on Friday.
- Drayson Bowman joined his teammates on the ice on Friday morning in Chicago after being called up by the Canadiens on Thursday night.
- Carey Price will get his 22nd start of the season on Friday night, looking for his first win on United Center ice, having dropped his lone appearance against the Blackhawks in Chicago on October 30, 2009.
- Coming off a disappointing loss to the Wild, the Habs will look to reverse their fortunes against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Owning an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games, the Hawks have been playing their best hockey of the season, especially the line of Patrick Kane, Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg, who have combined for 39 points (16 G, 23 A) in that span.
“It’s going to be tough. They have some great players on that team and they’re playing well. That line of Kane, Richards and Versteeg has been hot of late,” admitted P.K. Subban, who will be joined by Andrei Markov in looking to keep that trio off the scoresheet on Friday, “For us, it’s not so much focusing on key players as much as it is focusing on our team system and how we want to play. It’s going to come down to execution and paying attention to detail. The small things are going to make the difference in the game: getting pucks out of the zone, making sure we’re not turning it over at key times and making sure we’re getting bodies in front of the net. Whether they have the best goalie in the league in net or not, it’s hard to score goals in the NHL without traffic in front. We have to focus on doing those little things tonight. That will make the difference.”
- Looking to spark some offense of his own on Friday, Michel Therrien will reunite Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais with Dale Weise against the Blackhawks. In their 46:35 ice time together as a unit this season, the line has a plus-4 differential, and enjoys the best goals-for per 60 minutes of ice time on the team, with 7.7.
“He’s patient with the puck, he’s a great skater, and he’s a funny guy so he keeps things loose,” explained Desharnais on what Weise brings to their threesome. “Usually when he moves to our line it’s because we haven’t been producing, and we’re gripping the sticks a little tight and he lightens the mood. It seems every time he’s with us, it pays off.”
- In addition to the Blackhawks’ offensive prowess of late, the team has also proved to be stingy defensively in 2014-15, currently leading the NHL in goals-against per game at 1.96 while also owning the best penalty kill efficiency in the league at a stellar 92%.
“They have a lot of skill back there and their defensemen like to join the rush," described Pacioretty. "I think the reason why they’re so good defensively is that they’re always playing on offense. We need to find a way to counter-attack them and use our speed.”
- After a tough start against Minnesota that saw the Canadiens get outshot 30-10 through the first 40 minutes, Therrien wasn’t shy about what he’s hoping to see from his players against Chicago.
“That their skates are done up from the start, not just in the third period,” he joked.
- Therrien also confirmed that Mike Weaver would be back in the lineup on Friday after being a healthy scratch against the Wild on Wednesday.
“We want him to be better, and that’s one of the reasons he wasn’t in the lineup [in Minnesota]. We want to see him respond,” shared the Habs bench boss, whose 36-year-old blue-liner leads all Canadiens players with 51 blocked shots and 3:18 shorthanded ice time per game. “We expect more from Mike than the way he’s played recently because we know what he can bring to the lineup. Sometimes, sitting out can help a player. We hope he bounces back strong.”
Lines and defense pairings at practice
Words from the room
Game Preview: Canadiens @ Blackhawks
The Canadiens recalled forward Drayson Bowman from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday evening. He is scheduled to join the team in Chicago ahead of the tilt against the Blackhawks on Friday night at the United Center. Bowman, who has suited up for three games with the Canadiens thus far this season, has put up three goals and seven points in 14 games with the Bulldogs on the year.