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.”
LONGUEUIL – As part of its BLEU BLANC BOUGE program, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation unveiled its sixth multipurpose refrigerated community rink on Monday at Lionel Groulx Park in Longueuil.
Kids big and small – and some just in spirit – hopped on to the fresh ice surface to mark its official opening.
“I think it’s incredible. It’s like I told the guys earlier, it’s rare to see an NHL-sized outdoor rink,” praised Canadiens forward Manny Malhotra of the regulation-size 200-by-85-foot rink which was built in accordance with NHL standards to feature ice quality that meets the highest professional standards. “Being out here is making me feel like a kid again. It’s bringing back memories of playing pond hockey with my friends growing up, when my hands and feet would be frozen, but we’d still have a ton of fun.”
After thrilling fans during the team’s open practice at the Bell Centre on Sunday, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was back in the community on Monday for another lighthearted day at the office.
“When you think of hockey, you think of cold rinks growing up, so it’s pretty special for me to be here today,” admitted the burgeoning Habs rearguard who grew up in Strathroy, ON. “It’s definitely bringing back memories of skating outside and I know the guys are having a lot of fun.”
With existing rinks already located in the neighborhoods of Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension, Montreal North, Verdun, LaSalle, and Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the Longueuil rink becomes the first to be built outside the island of Montreal since the program first launched in 2008.
“I’d like to thank the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, the city of Longueuil, and all of our sponsors for their generosity and belief in the importance of living a healthy lifestyle,” said Canadiens owner, president and C.E.O., Geoff Molson. “We are extremely proud of the positive effect that our five BLEU BLANC BOUGE rinks are able to have in different neighborhoods across Montreal and are confident that the children and families of Longueuil will also benefit from this rink all year round.”
The BLEU BLANC BOUGE program’s primary focus is to develop healthy lifestyles among the youth of the neighborhoods in which the rinks are located, but at least one current Hab would like to see other NHL cities also take note.
“I saw the rink for the first time today and it’s remarkable. Growing up in Toronto I wish we had outdoor rinks this good,” noted Habs star P.K. Subban.
No stranger to NHL regulation-size outdoor rinks, having already skated in front of 41,000 fans during the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary, Subban still had lots to appreciate on Monday.
“It helps that it’s not -30 today,” cracked the 25-year-old assistant captain. “Everything came together perfectly. You can see a lot of great people out here – Geoff Molson came out – it says a lot, Mrs. Beliveau is here as well. It makes it special when you see these types of people sharing their support, but this is Montreal and we’re the Montreal Canadiens. We’re a family, and Quebec as a province supports its community which is really cool to see. Getting to be a part of it is something really special.”
To learn more about the BLEU BLANC BOUGE program, click here.
- The Canadiens were back at practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday morning where they began preparing for Tuesday night’s contest against the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was the only player who didn’t take part in Monday’s on-ice session. The Canadiens confirmed that he is out with concussion-like symptoms. The veteran forward suffered the initial injury back on January 2 in New Jersey, but returned to the lineup last Wednesday night in Columbus. He didn’t suit up, however, for Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders.
- After telling fans at Sunday’s Provigo Canadiens Practice that he’d be returning to active duty shortly, Carey Price took part in Monday’s practice at the Bell Sports Complex. Price missed Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders with a minor upper-body injury.
- The Nashville Predators practiced at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday afternoon after arriving in Montreal on Sunday.
- The Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation will inaugurate its sixth arena in conjunction with the Bleu Blanc Bouge program on Monday. It was installed in Longueuil's Lionel-Groulx Park. Michael Bournival, P.K. Subban, Manny Malhotra and Nathan Beaulieu will be on site for the ceremony, as will Canadiens owner, president and CEO, Geoff Molson.
Forward lines at practice: