- After registering their third straight victory – a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night – the Canadiens practiced at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday morning before departing for New York where they’ll battle the Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
- Head coach Michel Therrien gave goaltender Carey Price the day off from practice. Price registered his 25th win of the season on Tuesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre. His 40-save performance earned him first-star honours once again.
- All other players were present and accounted for at practice, except for Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau who remains sidelined with an upper-body injury. Forward Gabriel Dumont, who was recalled from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Tuesday night, took part in the on-ice session ahead of the trip to New York.
- Dumont practiced on the Canadiens’ fourth line, alternating with Christian Thomas. Michel Therrien indicated that he has yet to decide whether or not the 24-year-old will be in the lineup against the Rangers.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
- The Canadiens held a full game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday. Michel Therrien’s troops will be looking for a third straight win in their first game back from the All-Star break, while the visiting Dallas Stars will be hoping to bounce back from a 3-1 loss to the Bruins a week ago.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, currently sidelined with a concussion, was the only player absent from practice. The 31-year-old forward suffered the initial injury back on January 2 in New Jersey, but returned to the lineup on January 14-15 in Columbus and Ottawa, respectively. Most recently, however, he has missed a pair of games against the Islanders and Predators.
- Goaltender Carey Price was back on the ice on Tuesday morning after missing practice on Monday due to a delayed flight back from All-Star Weekend in Columbus. Price will make his ninth career start against the Stars.
- While the Canadiens had trouble finding the back of the net with the man advantage over the first half of the season, the struggling special teams unit has turned its fortunes around more recently, scoring seven power play goals over the last four games for a power play efficiency of 33%.
“I don’t know if we’re doing things differently. Sometimes it’s really just about confidence and luck. We’ve always been able to score timely goals on the power play when we’ve had to,” explained Subban, who nevertheless praised the recent work of his partner on the blue line, Andrei Markov.
“He makes a big difference when he’s on the ice, especially with all the experience he has on the power play. He knows where to put the puck and how quickly to pass it,” added Subban, who’s seen Markov rack up five power play assists over the last four games. “He can often be the difference between getting a scoring chance and scoring a goal.”
- One of the stingiest teams on defense this season, allowing just 2.33 goals per game, the Canadiens will be put to the test against one of the NHL’s top-scoring teams as the Stars arrive in Montreal with an average of 3.09 goals scored per game.
“The entire league is extremely competitive right now and the standings are tight. One game can change your season. They’re going to come in fighting and we’re ready for that. They’re a team that scores a lot of goals, so we’re expecting a challenge,” acknowledged defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who will take on a familiar face in Tyler Seguin on Tuesday.
“I played against him a bit when we were younger. He was playing in Toronto which wasn’t very far from me. He’s a great player who’s enjoying a career season,” underlined Beaulieu of the league’s top scorer with 28 goals so far this season. “He’s fast and he's got a good shot. We’ll need to take his time and space away from him tonight.”
- Rookie Jiri Sekac was also back at practice for the first time this week following his participation in Saturday’s NHL Skills Competition in Columbus. Although he arrived back in Montreal later than expected, the 22-year-old winger was still soaking in his All-Star experience.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a great experience for me and I really enjoyed being around those guys. I’m happy that I was able to be there,” admitted Sekac, who finished sixth overall in the Fastest Skater race.
“The mood there, both on and off the ice, was amazing. Everyone there has a bright future and they know it. When you see how they prepare for games and what they can do on the ice, it’s amazing. It’s not the kind of stuff you see every day,” added the six-foot-two, 195-pound forward who has registered seven goals and eight assists over 38 games so far this season.
While Sekac’s road to the All-Star Weekend may have taken him all the way to Ohio and back, it was a player from closer to home who impressed the Kladno, CZ native most at the league event.
“My friend Jay [Jakub Voracek] has become really good over the last couple of months. He’s an amazing player,” praised Sekac of his Czech countryman. “He’s big, he’s strong on the puck, and he's a great skater – he was one of the best players there.”
The biggest takeaway for Sekac, however, comes in the form of the added boost of confidence the former KHLer now returns to Montreal with just in time for the second half of the season.
“It was huge for me. If someone told me last summer that I would be an NHL All-Star I would have laughed. It was a great feeling for me because a couple of months ago I didn’t even know if I would make the team, so having success this season has been a huge thing for me.”
Forward lines at practice
Bournival – Malhotra - Thomas
Weise – Plekanec – Pacioretty
Galchenyuk – Desharnais – Gallagher
Prust – Eller – Sekac
Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon registered a hat trick and added an assist to lead the Western Conference to a 14-12 win over the Eastern Conference on Monday night at the AHL All-Star Game in Utica, NY. Hudon was the Hamilton Bulldogs’ lone representative at the event.
Hudon’s four-point night earned him co-MVP honours with goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who surrendered just two goals on 18 shots during the first period.
The Alma, QC native was a fifth-round selection of the Canadiens in 2012. He leads all AHL rookies with 36 points (11G-25A) in 42 games. Hudon also leads the Bulldogs in points.
- The Canadiens returned to work from the All-Star break on Monday, practicing at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard for the first time since preparing for the Predators last Tuesday.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was not at practice on Monday. The 31-year-old forward is currently sidelined with a concussion. The veteran winger suffered the initial injury back on January 2 in New Jersey, but returned to the lineup on January 14-15 in Columbus and Ottawa. Most recently, however, he has missed a pair of games against the Islanders and Preds.
- Goaltender Carey Price and forward Jiri Sekac were also absent from practice. The Habs’ two representatives at the NHL’s All-Star Weekend in Columbus were en route to Montreal on Monday afternoon after their scheduled morning flight was delayed due to the weather situation in the Northeastern U.S.
- Current McGill Redmen goaltender Jacob Gervais-Chouinard took part in the Canadiens practice for a second time this season in place of Price, having previously donned the Habs jersey in Brossard just over a month ago on December 19.
- Although Price missed the week’s first practice in Brossard, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that the 27-year-old netminder should nevertheless be back in goal on Tuesday against the visiting Dallas Stars.
- A significant portion of practice was dedicated to special teams on Monday. Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov were on the first wave, while Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk, Sergei Gonchar, and Nathan Beaulieu were on the second wave of the unit which has gone 7-for-18 over the last four games.
- The Sherbrooke Phoenix announced via Twitter on Monday that Habs prospect Daniel Audette is currently sidelined with pneumonia and will miss Wednesday’s game in the QMJHL. The 18-year-old center is also questionable heading into the weekend.
Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice:
COLUMBUS – Carey Price surrendered four goals on 16 shots at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, but Team Foligno ultimately dropped a 17-12 decision to Team Toews at Nationwide Arena on Sunday night.
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA), Jakub Voracek (PHI), Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and John Tavares (NYI) all managed to beat the Canadiens netminder during his time between the pipes in the first period, but the four-time All-Star was anything but disappointed in his performance.
“I only let in four goals. I’m fairly happy with that,” offered Price, who will return to Montreal on Monday morning before the Habs resume play on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre. “It is what it is. You’re just out there trying to mix in a couple of saves. There’s no pressure on us, so you’re just out there enjoying yourself.”
Price certainly did that over the last three days, mingling with some of the league’s top stars during the Fantasy Draft, Skills Competition, and especially over the course of Sunday night’s tilt, too.
“I had a lot of fun here,” mentioned Price. “I think Columbus did a great job of supporting this event. They were awesome hosts.”
Now, the 27-year-old is ready to get back to the business of the NHL regular season with 37 games remaining before the start of postseason play.
“It’s the push towards the playoffs. Our goal is to get to the dance,” stressed Price, who is currently in the Top 5 in wins, save percentage and goals-against average among all NHL goaltenders. “We just have to be consistent from here to the end of the year to do that.”
Team Foligno forward Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets took home NHL All-Star Game MVP honours, registering two goals and four points in front of the hometown fans. Voracek, however, led all players with six points on the night for Team Toews, while Tavares lit the lamp four times for Toews’ contingent as well.
Interestingly enough, Sunday night’s game was also the highest scoring contest in NHL All-Star Game history, surpassing the old record of 26 goals scored in North American’s 14-12 victory over the World squad in 2001 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Team Toews' 17 goals were also the most ever scored by one team in an NHL All-Star Game, one more than the Prince of Wales Conference's total in a 16-6 win over the Clarence Campbell Conference in 1993 in Montreal.
The Canadiens recalled Christian Thomas from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.
Thomas was reassigned to Hamilton last Wednesday. He played two games with the Bulldogs during his latest stint in the minors, picking up one assist during a home-and-home set against the Toronto Marlies.
The 22-year-old forward has nine goals and 15 points in 31 games with the Bulldogs this year.
He has also played 3 games with the Canadiens during the 2014-15 campaign, but has yet to register a point.
Sekac wasted little time putting his terrific skill set on display, showcasing his speed early on the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater event. The Czech forward went up against Florida Panthers rookie Aaron Ekblad, and proceeded to claim the two-skater race in 13.863 seconds.
Despite winning the heat, Sekac admitted that the designated track didn’t necessarily fit his skating style.
“I didn’t like it, really. The turn is very sharp. Once you get some speed, it’s a little bit uncomfortable to make the turn. I would rather go the whole lap [of the ice] than do that. I usually get speed in the turn, so it was harder for me,” offered Sekac, who still soaked in everything he possibly could during the evening. “It was just a great experience for me. You just look at the guys sitting next to you on the bench. It was a big thing for me. I’m very happy.”
The 22-year-old also demonstrated just how quick his hands really are, making a valiant attempt to beat Florida Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo during the Discover NHL Shootout. Unfortunately, Luongo came out on top this time around with a highlight-reel stop.
“It’s just me. It’s nothing else. Everybody else would put it in,” cracked Sekac, who came within inches of besting Luongo, only to see the 15-year NHL veteran make a sprawling save when it seemed like he was down and out. “I usually think about my moves a little bit, but I thought I would go to the backhand. I tried it and I get robbed. It was a great save.”
Like Sekac, Price also enjoyed the All-Star Skills Competition experience, applauding players on both teams for their efforts to entertain a packed house in downtown Columbus.
“I thought the guys were pretty creative during the breakaways. It’s kind of a hard thing to do You have to really think outside the box, and I thought they did a really good job of it,” praised Price, who scored a pair of empty-net goals during the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay.
“We’re just out here having a good time. There’s no pressure. You get to hang out with some guys that you don’t get to see very often. We all get along pretty well. Everyone’s pretty courteous. We all respect each other. It’s been a pretty good time.”
The highlight of the night, however, would undoubtedly have to be Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber’s 108.5 mph slap shot during the AMP NHL Hardest Shot event that garnered its fair share of applause.
“That’s kind of what I expected from him,” shared Price. “I get to see him workout in the summertime. He’s an animal in the gym.”
The Canadiens’ netminder will be back in action at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game which gets underway on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. EST.
2015 All-Star Skills Competition - Price and Sekac
Price, who is making the fourth All-Star appearance of his career, was selected in the sixth round by the squad helmed by Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and alternate captains Patrick Kane (CHI) and Drew Doughty (LAK).
“It was fun. We’ve got a bunch of pretty good guys on our team,” offered Price, whose squad also includes the likes Anze Kopitar (LAK), Steven Stamkos (TBL), Claude Giroux (PHI), Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Bobby Ryan (OTT) and fellow netminders Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) and Brian Elliott (STL). “Everybody we picked has a pretty good reputation. I’m looking forward to playing with them.”
For his part, Sekac joined Tampa Bay Lightning young gun Jonathan Drouin as one of two rookies on Foligno’s roster.
“The mood is really friendly. Everyone is just enjoying the time. I’m glad to be here. It’s great to be a part of it,” praised Sekac, who admits to learning some valuable lessons early on in his first All-Star appearance. “You can see the guys are just enjoying the time and enjoying playing hockey. That’s what it’s all about. You can’t be too serious all the time. It’s still just a game. You’re just trying to have fun.”
Forward Christian Thomas was reassigned to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday morning. Thomas, who was called up on January 8, played three games with the Canadiens during his stint with the big club. He didn't register a point.
In 29 games with the Bulldogs in 2014-15, the Toronto native has nine goals and 14 points.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday morning in preparation for their tilt against the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre. Michel Therrien’s troops will be looking for their second straight win, while Nashville is coming off a 5-2 loss against the Red Wings on Saturday in Detroit. Interestingly enough, the Predators haven’t lost back-to-back games all season.
- After being sidelined for last Saturday night’s contest against the New York Islanders with a minor upper-body injury, Carey Price will be back between the pipes for the Canadiens on Tuesday night. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed the news following the morning skate. It will be Price’s 36th start of the season. He is 1-3-0 in four career outings against Nashville, while also stringing together a 2.49 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.
- The Canadiens bench boss also confirmed that while his lineup won’t feature any changes up front, there will be one change on the back end. Defenseman Tom Gilbert is in, while Mike Weaver will once again be a healthy scratch. Weaver had previously taken Gilbert’s spot in the lineup in the game against the Islanders.
- The Predators make their first visit to La Belle Province since October 2013 on Tuesday night. Peter Laviolette’s squad enters the game as the second-ranked club in the NHL standings, boasting four talented forward lines and a bevy of mobile defensemen. The Canadiens are well aware of Nashville’s capabilities at both ends of the rink, and they’ve got a healthy respect for the group that will offer up the team’s final test before the All-Star break.
“I think every team is a different challenge, but if you look where they are in the standings, you have to treat them exactly like that. They brought in a new coach this year. They’ve got some very good players on that side, and, like always, they’ve really concentrated on not allowing a lot, but they’ve also got guys who can put the puck in the net as well,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who is in the midst of a three-game points streak with three assists during that span. “They’ve been doing a good job at finding ways to get points, so we definitely want to defend our home ice. They’ve found a way to be successful on the road, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
That rings true even if the Predators won’t be featuring the likes of Pekka Rinne between the pipes on Tuesday night. Rinne is sidelined with a knee injury. Carter Hutton will likely get the start in goal for Nashville.
“We’ll take it. Any time Pekka Rinne isn’t in net, we’re happy with that. Obviously, he’s one of the best goalies in the league. He’s having a great year,” mentioned Dale Weise, who has registered more points against the Predators than any other NHL team over the course of his career with three goals and seven points in nine games. “But, Nashville’s always had good goaltenders. Their backups are good goaltenders. They’ve been good, too.”
So, just how significant would a win over the Predators be given their success through 44 games this year?
“It would be huge. This is one of the best teams in the Western Conference. This is kind of a weird game to play when you’re playing the last game before the All-Star break. It’s kind of a game that you’ve really got to be focused for,” stressed Weise, who has six goals and 16 points in 41 games in 2014-15. “This is a perfect team to be playing for that.”
- Carey Price’s return to active duty means that he should be making the trip to Columbus later on this week to take part in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. It will be his fourth trip to the mid-season tilt, and head coach Michel Therrien couldn’t be happier to see the 27-year-old travel to Ohio to suit up alongside some of the league’s top players.
“It will be a good experience for him. We’re very happy that a guy like Carey was chosen to attend. It’s a great experience. The guys meet up with one another. I don’t have anything against it. It’s a part of where he is in his career. He’s an elite goaltender and a role model for a lot of players,” offered Therrien, whose squad will also be represented by young gun Jiri Sekac during the All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. “It’s a part of his responsibilities and he’s taken them on well. It’s good for him. It’s good for the organization. We consider ourselves very lucky to have a person like Carey Price representing the Montreal Canadiens.”