The Canadiens held an optional practice on Friday with 16 players taking part. Carey Price, Daniel Briere, David Desharnais, Brian GIonta, Travis Moen, Max Pacioretty, and Brandon Prust were not on the ice for the skate.
“It’s not because we’re not satisfied with Frankie,” explained the Habs bench boss of his decision to sit the 38-year-old blue-liner. “We’ve got eight defensemen and Frankie has given us some good hockey; he’s a veteran and a warrior. But we wanted to give Emelin a chance to get back in the lineup to give him a fair chance to show what he’s capable of doing tonight.”
The game will mark the Canadiens’ first visit to Joe Louis Arena since December 10, 2010, and it will also be the first matchup between the two clubs since the Red Wings were at the Bell Centre in January 2012. Friday’s game is the first of four meetings on tap between the two Original 6 clubs this season, and the first time they will face each other as divisional rivals.
“When we left Montreal for four games, we knew three of them were division games,” mentioned Therrien of his clubs recent road swing. “We won in Ottawa, I thought in Toronto we deserved a better fate because I really liked the way we played there until a few breakdowns cost us the game, and if we can win tonight’s game, we end up winning two out of three division games. Those are important games.”
While the Red Wings will be missing some firepower up front with Pavel Datsyuk out with a groin injury, they will be able to count on the services of Daniel Alfredsson, who will return to the lineup after missing the past five games with a back injury. Team USA netminder Jimmy Howard was injured earlier in the week and will not play against the Canadiens, but the Habs shouldn’t expect an easy night with Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes. The Swedish puckstopper has a 12-3-2 record so far in 2013-14.
“They’re a team that has their own unique style. I have a lot of respect for them; that’s a team that made the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons and that’s not easy to do,” explained Therrien, who was at the helm of the Penguins squad that lost to Detroit in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. “That shows what a great job their management and coaching staff is doing over there. It’s an accomplishment to make the playoffs the way the league is now and they’ve managed to consistently earn their spot. They’re strong on the puck and they’re a fast team. The game tonight will be an important one for us and it won’t be an easy one.”
Price will look to build to his 2-2-1 career record against the Wings, getting a chance to impress Team Canada coach Mike Babcock in person for the first time this season and the only time before the two join forces in Sochi.
Game preview: MTL @ DET
Words from the room
The Canadiens practiced at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday afternoon in preparation for Friday’s game against the Red Wings. All players took part in the skate.
|Mac Bennett and the University of Michigan Wolverines will face the Michigan State Spartans at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night.
Before the Canadiens hit the ice on Friday night, Habs prospect and Wolverines captain Mac Bennett will have a chance to test out the ice at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday, taking part in a NCAA matchup between the University of Michigan and Michigan State. The 22-year-old blue-liner currently has six points in 18 games in his senior year in Ann Arbor.
After sitting out Wednesday’s game as a healthy scratch, Alexei Emelin will return to the lineup to face the Red Wings on Friday. He was paired with Andrei Markov on the blue line during Thursday’s practice in Detroit.
Michel Therrien confirmed Carey Price will get his 41st start of the season on Friday. Price has a 2-2-1 career record against the Wings, sporting a .925 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average in that span.
Lines and D pairings at practicePacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher
The Canadiens skated at the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday morning ahead of their game against the Penguins.
David Desharnais did not take part in practice on Wednesday, sitting out with flu-like symptoms. Michel Therrien confirmed the 27-year-old center will be in the lineup against Pittsburgh.
Louis Leblanc will be in the lineup on Wednesday after being called up from Hamilton on Monday evening. He has one goal in his only career game against Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the big club, Leblanc was second in Bulldogs scoring with nine goals and 20 points in 36 games to go with a plus-2 differential.
“It’s still just a game, but playing against the Penguins is special. They have some great players over there. I’m excited,” shared Leblanc, who will skate on a line with Travis Moen and former Bulldogs teammate Michael Bournival. “The coach hasn’t given me any special directions or anything, but I’ll just go out there and do whatever they ask of me. I’ve improved my game both offensively and defensively in Hamilton and I’ve been given more and more responsibility on the ice. The coaches are happy with my game. I’ve earned a chance to be here tonight and it will be another test for me.”
Wednesday’s game will be the second between the two teams this season. The first time the Habs and Pens met this year, on Nov. 23, the Canadiens came away with a 3-2 win thanks in part to a pair of goals by Max Pacioretty. Despite having already earned his spot on Team USA’s roster, the 25-year-old sniper isn’t planning on taking his foot off the gas when he faces his future Olympic coach’s squad on Wednesday.
“When I talked to [Team USA and Penguins head coach Dan] Bylsma he mentioned that maybe guys can take it easy on Pittsburgh now that we’re not auditioning for the team,” joked Pacioretty, who currently leads the Canadiens with 21 goals. “I always want to make a good impression with everyone but it’s obviously a little bit more special knowing he’s going to coach me in a couple of weeks. You want to think team-first and come out with a win, but if I can contribute on the scoresheet it’s icing on the cake.”
After putting on a defensive clinic against the Penguins in his first outing, helping hold Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet while chipping in with a goal of his own, Tomas Plekanec will once again be tasked with stifling the league’s leading scorer, but his coach knows it won’t be quite as easy to have the Selke-worthy center matched up against the perennial Hart Trophy winner on every shift.
“First off, we don’t have last change tonight so it’s a bit of a tougher position to be in,” explained Therrien, who spent four seasons behind the Penguins bench and coached both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their first few NHL seasons. “Our players will be ready to face them and it’s important to work as a five-man unit. It’s not about just one player. It’s a big challenge when you talk about Crosby and Malkin; those are two really dangerous lines. There are five players on the ice so it will be important for everyone to play responsibly and make sure we’re making good decisions with the puck because they have players who can create a lot of offense off of turnovers.”
Carey Price will make his 40th start of the campaign, looking to build on his 9-8-2 all-time record against the Penguins. At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury will start for Pittsburgh between the pipes. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Words from the room
Forward Louis Leblanc, recalled from Hamilton on Monday, was on the ice. He practiced on a line with Travis Moen and former Bulldogs teammate Michael Bournival.
Alex Galchenyuk, on the mend after suffered a broken hand three weeks ago, skated in company of the team’s strength coach on the other ice surface.
Rookie Nathan Beaulieu skated on a pairing with veteran Josh Gorges.
Coach Michel Therrien confirmed after practice that both Leblanc and Bournival will play against the Penguins on Tuesday. Carey Price will be in net.
LINES AT PRACTICE
On Monday afternoon, the Canadiens recalled forward Louis Leblanc from the Hamilton Bulldogs. He will be at practice on Tuesday morning in Brossard.
Leblanc took part in five games with the Canadiens earlier this season, registering a plus-2 differential and amassing two penalty minutes. In 36 games with the Bulldogs thus far this year, the 22-year-old centerman has scored nine goals and posted 20 points in addition to amassing a plus-2 differential.
Raphael Diaz, who missed Saturday night’s game against the Maple Leafs with the flu, was back on the ice.
Lars Eller, who also battled flu symptoms during the past road trip but played in Toronto, slotted in as left winger with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, recalled from Hamilton over the weekend, practiced alongside Douglas Murray.
Carey Price broke out a new set of pads, which he will use in Sochi. The CCM-made pads are white featuring red and black accents in lieu of the usual red and blue.
Travis Moen left practice early.
LINES AT PRACTICE
Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was called up from Hamilton on Sunday afternoon. This marks Beaulieu's third stint in Montreal this season, having suited up for five games prior to his most recent recall on Jan. 18 for the game against the Maple Leafs. Beaulieu was returned to Hamilton immediately following Saturday's game.
The 21-year-old played 13:36 against Toronto, finishing with a plus-1 differential. In six NHL games this year, the blue-liner has one assist to go with his plus-3 differential.
On Sunday January 19, 2014, the Cutting it for kids event was held at the Bell Centre. The event hosted by George Parros and the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation invited fans to have their hair cut in order to help kids battling cancer receive wigs made with real human hair. Participants had a chance to get an autograph and have their pictures taken with George Parros, who shed his trademark locks for the occasion, in exchange for donations.
In total, George Parros and three fans received haircuts, raising $1 545 for the oncology department of the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Childhood Leukemia Foundation.
Forwards present were Brandon Prust, George Parros, Brendan Gallagher, Rene Bourque, Michael Bournival, Lars Eller, Joonas Nattinen, David Desharnais, Daniel Briere and Travis Moen. Defenseman included P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Francis Bouillon and Nathan Beaulieu. Peter Budaj was the lone goalie at practice.
After practice, Brendan Gallagher talked about what it means to have a chance to take part in such a marquee matchup.
“Every game in the Montreal-Toronto level has a great compete level. It’s fun to come here, and the games are always exciting. It’s still pretty early to look at the standings, but it’s important to play your best game against [a division rival],” Gallagher stated.
Teammate Brandon Prust, who like Gallagher is no stranger to physical play, is looking forward to reigniting an age-old rivalry in front of a nation-wide audience.
“Leafs-Habs games are always exciting. They have won three in a row, and we’re coming off a win but by no means our best win ever, so we’re looking to bounce back and have a good game, while they want to keep the ball rolling,” Prust offered, referencing the Habs’ overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. “We are focusing on playing better with the lead. Playing with more intensity and keeping up the forecheck even if we’re ahead. Definitely something to work on.”
Forward Lars Eller, who had been battling flu symptoms for the past days, looked to be health and ready to take part in Saturday night’s game. After centering the third line for most of the season, he’ll skate on the left wing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
“It doesn’t matter whether I play center or on the wing, I just try my best to help Plekanec and Gionta. I’ve played with Plekanec in the past, not in long stretches, but it’s not something totally foreign to me,” revealed Eller. “As a winger, there’s more forechecking involved. You get to use your size along the boards to set up your centerman and get pucks to the net.”
“Everytime these two teams play, it’s an occasion. The fact that it’s on a Saturday night only makes it more special. I anticipate a hotly contested game,” commented coach Michel Therrien, who also annonced that Nathan Beaulieu will partner with Francis Bouillon on a defense pairing while rookie Joonas Nattinen draws into his first NHL game in lieu of Rene Bourque.
Lars Eller and Raphael Diaz sat out practice with flu symptoms, while Douglas Murray took a therapy day.
Yougsters Joonas Nattinen and Nathan Beaulieu, freshly recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs, joined their new teammates for practice. Nattinen wore number 28.
Coach Michel Therrien confirmed that both Beaulieu and Nattinen will play tomorrow, making it the Finn's NHL debut. Carey Price will be in net.
LINES AT PRACTICE