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.
Only four players skated at the United Center on Wednesday morning as the Canadiens prepare to take on the Blackhawks in Chicago at night.
As Carey Price rests at home in Montreal, Peter Budaj should get his 11th career start against the Hawks on Wednesday night. The 31-year-old netminder has a 4-5-1 record all-time against Chicago to date.
- P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, who missed yesterday’s practice, were all back on the ice.
- The team’s first two lines worked on powerplay drills under the supervision of head coach Michel Therrien and assistant coach Clement Jodoin at the start of the practice. Daniel Briere alternated with Alex Galchenyuk on a line centered by Plekanec, while Nathan Beaulieu took turns at the point alongside P.K. Subban.
- The only players absent were Travis Moen and Brandon Prust. Moen is recovering from a concussion and Prust is expected to return from an upper-body injury in time for the postseason.
- After practice, Coach Therrien announced that Emelin, Markov, Douglas Murray and Carey Price will not make the trip to Chicago with the team. Murray will be serving the last game of his three-game suspension, while the other three players are staying in Montreal to gain additional rest.
LINES AT PRACTICE
- Josh Gorges and Dale Weise both skated with their teammates and have been cleared for full contact. Both had been out for the past weeks with upper-body injuries.
- P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin had therapy days and did not practice. Brandon Prust remains sidelined. He is aiming to return in time for the postseason.
- Head coach Michel Therrien ran a high-tempo practice focusing on zone entries and breakouts. Meanwhile, goaltender coach Stephane Waite worked with both Carey Price and Peter Budaj on their puck-handling behind the net.
LINES AT PRACTICE