- The Canadiens held a full morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday, notably dedicating the week’s first practice to special teams.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau practised with his teammates again on Monday, as the 31-year-old winger continues to recover from an upper body injury suffered on January 2 in New Jersey. It was Parenteau’s second full practice in as many opportunities since this weekend, although the Hull, QC native did not suit up against the Penguins on Saturday.
“I wasn’t gone for too long but it’s still been three games. I was happy to be back on the ice today and feel like part of the team again,” explained the Canadiens' off-season acquistion. “It was nothing major, but there’s a protocol to follow when you’re injured.”
Sidelined for a trio of games, Parenteau nevertheless made the most of his time away from the Habs bench, handling some advance scouting on what currently happens to be the team’s hot issue.
“I had the chance to get a different look at our power play from up in the press gallery,” added six-foot, 197-pounder. “I think it comes down to a question of speed and timing, which fortunately are two things we can improve on with the guys we have in this locker room.”
Subban’s ascension as a burgeoning NHL pugilist, however, may take a little longer than the 25-year-old star had been hoping.
“I’ve made zero progress,” cracked the Canadiens’ assistant captain. “Today he managed to get my undershirt over my head, so I don’t know if that’s progress or not. If it was for real, I think I would have had a chance though. There were no real punches thrown. It’s a process, we’re working on it."
Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice:
Pacioretty - Plekanec - Gallagher
Prust - Galchenyuk - Parenteau
Desharnais - Eller - Weise
Bournival - Malhotra - Sekac
Subban - Markov
Emelin - Gilbert
Beaulieu – Gonchar
MONTREAL - Quebecers really love their hockey.
Proof of that is readily available in the staging of the 16th ESSO Minor Hockey Festival at the Bell Centre. Forty teams from across the province of Quebec convened in Montreal to play 20 hockey games.
It provided the opportunity for 680 youngsters to hit the ice at the Canadiens' home rink for the first time. Participants from as far away as Saguenay and Rimouski made the trek to attend the two-day event which ran from 7:15 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.
To take part in the ESSO Minor Hockey Festival, teams showcased their creative sides. Youngsters and their respective organizations had to send the Canadiens a video featuring the famous "Go Habs Go" chant. The 40 teams were selected on the basis of their submissions.
Teams were made up of kids of all ages and skill levels from Novice to Bantam.
Carey Price has been selected by the NHL to represent the Canadiens at this year’s All-Star Weekend set to take place on January 24-25 in Columbus, OH. Price will make his fourth All-Star appearance this season, having previously taken part in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 editions of the annual event. Heading into Saturday’s game against the Penguins, the 27-year-old netminder has compiled a 22-10-1 record – placing him second league-wide for wins – while maintaining a 2.20 goals against average and 0.927 save percentage.
- The Canadiens held an optional game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday. Notably absent from practice ahead of facing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre were Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Sergei Gonchar, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Tom Gilbert.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering an upper body injury on January 2 in New Jersey. Despite being back on the ice for the entire practice however, the 31-year-old forward will nevertheless miss a third consecutive game on Saturday.
Called up from Hamilton on Thursday, Christian Thomas could play his first game with the Canadiens this season on Saturday.
“We didn’t play together often, but when we did, it worked well. I’m eager to see what he brings tonight because we play well together,” praised Bournival of his former Bulldogs teammate who has registered nine goals and five assists in 29 games in Hamilton this season. “Christian is a good skater and a hard worker with lots of talent. We know our role is to bring energy to the ice while also creating scoring chances, and that’s what we’ll focus on doing tonight.”
Representing the Habs’ most junior line meanwhile, with a combined 84 career NHL games between the three young forwards, Thomas won’t be the only one looking to make his mark on Saturday.
“We’re all still new to the NHL and we all want to make a good impression,” added Bournival, who scored twice against the Devils last Friday. “It’s a good opportunity to prove ourselves. We’re obviously still young, but if we work hard, we’ll get the scoring chances.”
- Facing Pittsburgh for the final time this year, the Canadiens will have the opportunity to win a second consecutive season series against Sidney Crosby & Co., having gone 2-1-0 opposite the Penguins in 2013-14.
Winners of a 4-1 decision at the Consol Energy Center most recently a week ago, the Habs won’t try to mess with what has proven to be a recipe for success.
“We’ve just got to have the same mindset as the last time we faced them,” admitted defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. “We weren’t happy with the result against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but we know that Pittsburgh’s another very good hockey club just like Tampa. We played a really good game in their building a week ago so we know they’re going to be hungry to come back here. It’s going to be a tough game and we’ve prepared ourselves for it.”
With the visitors ranked ninth in the NHL for goals per game with an average of 2.95, the Canadiens will have to keep a close eye on the always dangerous Evgeni Malkin (18 G-27 A-45 PTS) and Crosby (11 G – 32 A – 45 PTS), who sit fifth and ninth league-wide in individual scoring, respectively.
“They’re so skilled. You’ve just got to control that,” continued Beaulieu. “All of their lines can score so you can’t really match or discipline them; they’re so skilled on every line. If you put them on the power play you’ve got five super stars out there, so that’s something we’ll need to avoid, plus a good start will be key as usual.”
- Carey Price should make his 34th start of the season on Saturday night opposite the Pens, having tallied a 10-10-0-2 record in 22 career outings against Pittsburgh since 2007.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on TVA Sports and CBC.
- The Canadiens practiced at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday morning in preparation for their Saturday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, took to the ice for a third consecutive day on Friday to continue his rehab. He skated with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine prior to the start of practice, and then remained on the ice to participate in several practice drills with goaltenders Carey Price and Dustin Tokarski. Parenteau, however, did not participate in the general practice session. In his post-practice press conference, Therrien indicated that Parenteau is making progress, but would not suit up against Pittsburgh.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
The Canadiens called up Christian Thomas from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday. The left-winger, who played two games with the Canadiens last season, has suited up for 29 games with the Bulldogs in 2014-15. He has nine goals and 14 points on the year.
- After a day off on Wednesday, the Canadiens returned to practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning. Michel Therrien’s troops will be back in action on Saturday night when they play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.
- Prior to the start of practice, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated alongside athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine. Parenteau has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury suffered on January 2 in New Jersey.
- Defenseman Alexei Emelin also took to the ice before practice began, skating on Brossard’s secondary ice rink accompanied by strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard. The pair worked on power skating drills. Emelin then participated in practice alongside his teammates.
- Head coach Michel Therrien kept his lines intact on Thursday, featuring the same trios that went up against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night in Montreal.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Charles Hudon will represent the Hamilton Bulldogs at the 2015 AHL All-Star Game being held January 25-26 in Utica, NY.
Through 35 games with Hamilton this season -- his first as a pro -- Hudon has registered 10 goals and 33 points to lead the rookie scoring race so far. Ranked fourth among all AHL point-getters, the 20-year-old forward enjoyed an impressive month of November, racking up 14 points in 12 games to also earn the nod as Rookie of the Month.
Hudon was selected by the Canadiens in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday ahead of their tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.
- Brandon Prust did not take part in the morning skate. He was given a therapy day. Prust, however, will play in Tuesday night’s game against Tampa. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau wasn’t on the ice either. He remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that the Canadiens will field the same lineup that bested the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday night at the CONSOL Energy Center. That means that Mike Weaver will be a healthy scratch once again on the back end.
- After clearing waivers at noon EST on Tuesday, defenseman Bryan Allen was assigned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
- Michel Therrien’s troops go in search of a seventh straight win on Tuesday night. That’s a feat the Habs haven’t accomplished since the 2005-06 campaign when they rattled off eight straight wins between March 23 and April 6, 2006. Keeping the current winning streak alive, however, won’t be easy. Jon Cooper’s contingent sits tied with the Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference standings with 54 points, and they possess the league’s most potent offense with 134 goals on the year.
“They’ve got a lot of threats, especially if you give them the man advantage. They’re going to capitalize. We think we’ve been pretty disciplined of late. We went over some clips this morning. That’s going to be a huge key against Tampa, to stay out of the box,” stressed defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who is fairly familiar with a few of the Lightning’s top guns, including Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. “I got to play against them during my first year in the American League, and they’re really special players. To see what they’re doing at this level is something else. There are going to be a couple of guys that we’re going to have to be especially dialed in against. They’re real hot right now. They’re in the back of our minds for sure.”
If playing a disciplined brand of hockey is one key to Tuesday night’s game for Montreal, lighting the lamp first is certainly the other. The Canadiens are the only team in the league in 2014-15 that hasn’t come out on the wrong side of the score sheet after finding the back of the net before of the opposition.
“We’re looking to grab the lead every game. It’s a part of our game plan. The guys are becoming more at ease at playing with the lead and they’re making smarter decisions with the puck. That’s something that I appreciate as a coach,” mentioned Therrien, whose squad is 16-0-0 when scoring first through 39 games this season. “We’re going up against a team that has a lot of speed and a lot of energy up front, so we’re going to have to start the game with that same mentality.”
- There are a number of reasons why the Canadiens are riding high right now. While stellar goaltending, offensive depth and sound defense have a lot to do with it, forward Lars Eller says it also has to do with the makeup of the locker room and the coaching staff’s ability to keep the players focused on the task at hand, especially heading into a game like this one.
“They help keep us grounded. Trust me,” confided Eller, who has put up four points in his last five games. “I said it at the beginning of the season, too. It’s a humble group. We don’t get too high even when we’re on these streaks. We don’t float away. There’s plenty of motivation for this game. Last time we played Tampa, we got embarrassed. We certainly don’t want that to happen again. We’re battling for first in the division. There’s plenty of things to get excited about. I’m not worried about us coming out soft.”
Neither is the Canadiens’ bench boss, who insists the team he’s fielding on Tuesday night isn’t the same group that dropped a 7-1 decision to the Lightning back on October 13 in Florida.
“In the game we played against them earlier this season, they were very motivated and ready to take us on. They deserved the victory. But, we know we’re able to play better hockey against the Lightning,” offered Therrien. “We’ve become a different team. We’ve made progress since the start of the year. We’re really looking forward to the game.”
- Carey Price will make his 33rd start of the season on Tuesday night. He boasts a 10-8-4 record, a 2.43 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 22 career outings against Tampa Bay.
Three Canadiens prospects hit the ice during the final day of WJC2015 action on Monday, each vying for medals at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Here’s a look at their respective performances:
Slovakia 4 - Sweden 2
The surprising Slovaks faced Sweden during Monday afternoon’s bronze medal game in Toronto, getting off to a quick start with two goals in the first four minutes of play. Sweden replied quickly however, eventually ending the first period tied 2-2. Slovakia’s Pavol Skalicky scored the game-winner early in the third, with an assist from Canadiens prospect Martin Reway. Netminder Denis Godla, meanwhile, was once again superb in goal, making 26 saves to earn player of the game honors. The win secured Slovakia’s second bronze medal finish in tournament history after also finishing third in 1999.
Canadiens prospects Reway and Swedish forward Jacob De La Rose were named team MVPs following the game. Reway finished his tournament with three assists against Sweden while De La Rose registered a shot on goal while also going 63.6% in the face-off circle.
Canada 5 – Russia 4
Canadiens prospects involved:
Canada: Zachary Fucale, G (Selected in the 2nd round, 36th overall in 2013)
Canadians across the country held their breath during a tense finish, but Zachary Fucale and Team Canada came out on top to defeat Russia 5-4 during Monday night’s gold medal game.
Getting on the board just 23 seconds into the contest, Canada looked to be in control with a four-goal lead in the second frame before Russia stormed back to make it 5-4 after 40 minutes of play.
That’s as close as the Russians would get however, as Fucale made 26 saves to secure Canada’s first WJC gold medal since 2009, ending his tournament -- and Junior career -- with a 0.939 save percentage.