George Parros will make his return to the lineup on Saturday night for the first time since suffering a concussion 12 games ago against the Islanders, on Dec. 14.
With Parros back in action, Francis Bouillon will be a healthy scratch against Chicago as Michel Therrien returns to a traditional formation with six defensemen in the lineup after dressing seven D and 11 forwards against Philadelphia.
After missing Friday’s practice while visiting his newborn son in Connecticut, Max Pacioretty was back on the ice with his teamamtes on Saturday and will play against the Blackhawks.
Counting three forwards among the league’s 12 leading scorers in Patrick Kane (2nd, 54 pts), Patrick Sharp (8th, 47 pts) and Jonathan Toews (12th, 45 pts) and leading the NHL with 3.59 goals per game, the Blackhawks represent the Canadiens’ biggest offensive threat of the season to date. While the Habs are aware of the firepower they’ll be facing on Saturday night, they won’t be sitting back watching the Hawks’ snipers go to work.
“In a game like tonight, the best defense is a good offense,” explained Lars Eller, who skated on a line with Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque during Friday’s off-day practice. “Don’t give the puck away when we have it and try playing in their end as much as we can. We know Pricer [Carey Price] is going to give us a chance to win every night. It’s not going to be easy, but everyone in here is motivated and ready to have fun.”
Price will get his 36th start of the season on Saturday, facing off against the Hawks for the fourth time in his career. In three games to date, Price owns a 2-1-0 record against Chicago with a 1.66 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.
The NHL’s 10th-ranked power play unit will also likely have an impact on the Canadiens’ chances of knocking off the reigning Stanley Cup champs. Despite owning an overall 19.6% efficiency with the man advantage this season, the Habs have converted on just three of 33 power play opportunities in the last nine games.
“We need to have better execution and we need to make better decisions with the puck. We need to support the puck carrier better, too,” described Therrien. “Those are all things we worked on during practice yesterday and reviewed again this morning. Special teams are really important if you want to be successful, on both ends [power play and penalty kill], so we need to be really sharp on our special teams if we want to give ourselves a chance to win tonight.”
Saturday will also mark the first time Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and Habs goaltending coach Stephane Waite will face their former club since leaving Chicago to join the organization.
Words from the room
Game Preview: MTL vs. CHI
- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday morning ahead of their Saturday night tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre.
- Max Pacioretty did not take part in the on-ice session on Friday morning. The power forward received permission to visit his newborn son, Lorenzo, in Connecticut. Pacioretty will rejoin the team today.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
Briere – Plekanec – Gionta
Bourque – Eller – Bournival
Parros – Prust – Moen
Bournival – Desharnais – Gallagher
Emelin – Markov
Gorges – Subban
Murray - Bouillon
The 13th episode of Season 2 of the Montreal Canadiens’ reality series, 24CH, reached over a million viewers. In all, 1,002,000 people tuned in on a variety of Bell Media platforms from December 28 through January 3.
Check out the complete broadcast schedule for upcoming episodes here.
PHILADELPHIA – The Canadiens held an optional morning skate ahead of Wednesday evening’s game against the Flyers.
George Parros, sidelined since late December with a concussion, practiced with his teammates and could play tonight.
“I’m cleared to play, I’m good to go, and it’ll be a game time decision tonight,” announced Parros after coming off the ice. The Habs could very well call upon him tonight, since the team is currently short on forwards with the injuries to Ryan White and Alex Galchenyuk. Neither made the trip down to Philadelphia.
Wednesday morning, forwards on the ice for the skate included Parros, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and Michael Bournival. They were joined by defensemen Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges, Douglas Murray, Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz. All others stayed back but are expected to be available against the Flyers.
Peter Budaj was the first goaltender off the ice, while Carey Price stayed to work on technique with goalie coach Stephane Waite. Budaj will make his eleventh appearance in 2013-14 against the Flyers.
“Alex is a big offensive guy for us, so we will miss him. But it’s a chance for other guys to step up and show that they can play. All in all, it shouldn’t affect our results on the ice too much, I think. Everybody is going to carry a little more, and we’ll be okay,” Eller offered. He pivoted a line with Rene Bourque and Michael Bournival on Monday against Florida after Galchenyuk left the game. The Dane also added his impressions on the Habs’ opponents on Wednesday.
“It’ll be a very hard game tonight. I haven’t gotten many points [here in Philadelphia] as far as I can remember. The Flyers play physical, they’re fast. I certainly don’t expect an easy game; we’ll have to focus on ourselves and what we can do. If we follow the game plan and bring a good effort, we’ll have a good chance to win,” Eller opined.
Carey Price will get a rare night off. The Habs’ starting goaltender was just named to Team Canada’s Olympic roster on Tuesday thanks to his strong play to start out the season, having allowed two goals or less in 23 of 35 starts so far.
“Going into this year, I wanted to be consistent. Finding that level was the priority for me. I don’t think the last week went as well as I wanted to, but everybody goes through that at some point in the season. Stephane Waite has done a good job at keeping my focus on the task at hand. We’ve done a lot of video to iron out issue and talk about how to manage situations better. Mentally, going through everything in my career so far has definitely made me stronger,” Price revealed. He currently holds a lower goals-against average and a higher saves percentage than in his previous seven NHL seasons (2.22GAA, .928sv%).
The Canadiens practiced in Brossard ahead of their afternoon flight to Philadelphia for Wednesday’s game against the Flyers.The Habs announced on Tuesday morning that Alex Galchenyuk will miss six weeks with a broken hand suffered Monday night against Florida. With Galchenyuk out, Michael Bournival moved up to a line with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque at Tuesday’s practice.
Carey Price (therapy day) and Brandon Prust (personal matters) did not skate with their teammates on Tuesday. Ryan White was also absent, still recovering from an upper-body injury. George Parros will be a game-time decision against the Flyers.
Michel Therrien confirmed Peter Budaj will get his 10th start of the season on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. He has a 5-3-1 record so far this year, bringing his .923 save percentage and 2.05 goals-against average with him into the Wells Fargo Center.
Lines at practice
The Montreal Canadiens will have players representing Canada at the Olympics for the first time since Mark Recchi and Shayne Corson donned the Maple Leaf at the 1998 Games in Nagano. Reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban and three-time All-Star Carey Price both received calls from Team Canada’s brass on Tuesday morning informing them that they had been named to the 25-man roster heading to Sochi. Both have previously skated for Canada internationally;
Subban won back-to-back gold medals at the World Juniors in 2008 and 2009 and participated in Canada’s final game at the 2013 World Championships last spring. Price is also the proud owner of a World Junior gold medal, having led Team Canada to the top of the podium in Sweden in 2007.
Subban is third among all NHL defensemen in 2013-14 with 33 points in 44 games so far this year, also boasting a stellar plus-14 differential. The four-year NHL veteran is second in the league behind only Duncan Keith for power play points by a blue-liner, boasting three goals and 12 assists with the man advantage.
Currently second behind only Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury with 20 wins so far in 2013-14, Price has a .928 save percentage in 35 starts this season to go with two shutouts. His 988 saves to date are also second in the league to Mike Smith’s 1,002.
Longtime Habs equipment manager Pierre Gervais and Canadiens director of media relations Dominick Saillant will also join the Canadian contingent at the Olympics in February.
The big reveal
Budaj with Team Slovakia
Plekanec, captain of Czech Republic
Raphael Diaz with Swiss national team
Defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin were both named to Team Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Tuesday morning. Markov, 35, will be making his third consecutive Olympic appearance. The veteran rearguard has amassed one goal and five points in 12 career games at the Olympics. Emelin, meanwhile, will be an Olympian for the first time in his career. The 27-year-old most recently claimed gold for Russia at the World Hockey Championships in 2012.
Peter Budaj was named to Team Slovakia’s 25-man roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Tuesday morning. The 31-year-old netminder will be making his third consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games. Budaj holds a 2-1-0 record in three career Olympic outings, all of which came in 2006 in Turin. Goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Jan Laco were also named to Slovakia’s Olympic roster.
Unsurprisingly, Tomas Plekanec has been named captain of the Czech Republic team at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games held in February. In Sochi, Russia, the veteran centerman will make his second Olympic appearance since debuting for his home country in Vancouver in 2010. There, Plekanec amassed two goals and one assist in five games, helping his side to a quarter-final berth. He becomes the third Hab to receive a coveted invitation to the Winter Games, after Max Pacioretty and Raphael Diaz were selected to represent the United States and Switzerland respectively.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate on Monday morning in Brossard ahead of their tilt against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre. This is the third of four games between these Atlantic division teams during the 2013-14 campaign. The Panthers beat the Canadiens in their two previous meetings with a 2-1 win at Bell Centre on Dec. 15 and a 4-1 home victory on Dec. 29.
- With respect to White, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that the 25-year-old forward is expected to be sidelined for the next two weeks. White was injured on Jan. 2 in Dallas.
- Therrien also confirmed that the Canadiens’ lineup will remain unchanged on Monday night. Raphael Diaz will be a healthy scratch, while Daniel Briere will play alongside Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec. Briere registered two goals and three points on that line on Saturday night against Ottawa.
- The Canadiens might sit 15 points ahead of the Panthers in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Habs have yet to best the South Florida-based franchise in two meetings thus far this season. If the bleu-blanc-rouge has learned anything from their previous tilts against Peter Horachek’s club, it’s that the Panthers are far better than their record indicates.
“They’re not easy to play against at all. You’ve got to outwork them because that’s what they did to us the first two games and that’s why they won. It’s as simple as that. They’re a good team,” confided Lars Eller, who has 10 goals and 20 points on the year. “I think we owe it to ourselves to give it a better effort than the first two games against them. If we can match their effort or bring a better one than them, we’ve got a good chance to win. We’ve got to match their effort, especially in our building. We owe that to ourselves.”
- Raphael Diaz was named to Team Switzerland for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Monday. The Canadiens rearguard will be sporting his nation’s colors on Olympic ice for the second time in his career, having previously donned the red and white in Vancouver in 2010.
“I’m very happy to be going to my second Olympics. In a month, we’ll fly over from here, and of course I’m really happy,” offered the 27-year-old, who became the second Habs player to earn a spot on an Olympic roster after Max Pacioretty was named to Team USA last week.
“It’s always a really good challenge," added Diaz. "It’s the tournament of all tournaments every four years. Of course you’re happy to compete there against the best players in the world.”
- With the formal announcement of Canada’s Olympic roster scheduled for Tuesday morning at 11 a.m., head coach Michel Therrien discussed the importance of his troops earning highly-coveted spots to compete for their countries at the Olympic Games.
“We want our players to experience things like that. I’m very happy that Raphy has a chance to go over there and represent his country. Tomorrow, big announcements will be made and I’m confident that like Pacioretty and Diaz, other guys will get a chance to participate in the Olympics,” underlined Therrien, whose Canadian ties have him rooting for several of his troops to potentially join Team Canada in Sochi. “I’m Canadian, so I’d really like to see Pricer there. I’m confident. It’s the same thing with P.K. Subban. I strongly believe that they both have a good chance to be there and I sincerely hope that it happens.”
- Carey Price should make his 35th start of the season on Monday night. Price holds a 5-4-1 record and a 1.88
goals-against average in 10 career appearances against the Panthers.