- The Canadiens held a full game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday, ahead of hosting the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre.
- Called up from Hamilton on Friday, goaltender Joey MacDonald was on the ice at practice.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was absent from the morning skate. Benefiting from a treatment day, head coach Michel Therrien meanwhile confirmed that the 31-year-old forward will not suit up against the Isles.
- Carey Price was also absent from practice in Brossard. The 27-year-old netminder suffered a minor upper body injury in Columbus on Wednesday, and will be reevaluated on a day-to-day basis.
“We don’t know if he’ll be ready for our next game or the All-Star Game, but it’s nothing major, so there’s no need to worry. It just depends on how his treatment goes,” explained Therrien. “He felt good enough to be the backup after receiving treatment in Ottawa, but yesterday morning he felt a bit stiff, which is why as a preventative measure, he’s not playing tonight.”
- With Price out of the lineup, Dustin Tokarski will make his second straight start on Saturday. Ranked fourth in the NHL with an average of just 2.33 goals allowed per game, the Habs meanwhile, are confident regardless of who is in goal.
“We have confidence in him. We have confidence in both of our goalies. Obviously Carey is our number one guy, but Tokarski was there for us last year when it counted,” noted David Desharnais. “He did a great job then, and he continues to do a great job this year. It’s not something we need to be worried about.”
- With Parenteau out of the lineup, Therrien made a number of personnel changes at practice on Saturday, moving Dale Weise to the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty, while shifting Alex Galchenyuk back to the wing, flanking Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher.
“As a coach with a young player [like Alex], my job is to make sure he’s developing well. I had a good chat with him this morning and he told me that he feels most comfortable playing on the wing right now, so it’s a decision we made together,” explained the Habs’ bench boss. “Our job as coaches is to help keep our players comfortable and confident. It’s a process right now with Alex, and it doesn’t mean he’ll stay on the wing for the rest of the season.”
- One of the surprises of the 2014-15 NHL season, the Islanders arrive in Montreal ranked first overall in the Eastern Conference, setting up what should be an exciting game for fans at the Bell Centre.
“They’ve been playing great this season. They had a couple of tough years in the past, but you can see that they play responsibly now, especially on defense. They look like a team wanting to make the playoffs not only this year, but every year moving forward,” acknowledged defenseman P.K. Subban, whose longtime pal John Tavares leads New York with 42 points in 44 games this season. “They’ve got lots of guys who are able to put the puck in the back of the net, and we’ll have to be especially careful when a guy like Tavares is on the ice.”
- Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre, and will be broadcast on TVA Sports and Sportsnet.
Forward lines at practice:
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Weise
Galchenyuk – Desharnais – Gallagher
Sekac – Eller – Thomas
Bournival – Malhotra – Prust
MacDonald, a nine-year NHL veteran, has won six of his 16 games in Hamilton this season. He was called up previously for one game in December to back up starting goaltender Carey Price.
Price is day to day (upper-body).
MacDonald, a Nova Scotia native, has registered 44 wins in 133 career NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
- The Canadiens hit the ice on Wednesday morning for an optional skate at Nationwide Arena in Columbus in preparation for their tilt against the Blue Jackets. Michel Therrien’s troops will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak. Columbus has also lost two straight. It will be the first meeting between the two teams during the 2014-15 campaign.
- After missing the last three games with an upper-body injury, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau confirmed that he will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Wednesday night. Parenteau suffered the injury back on January 2 in New Jersey, and spent some time on injured reserve before being given the green light to return to active duty.
- Parenteau will be featured on a new line come puck drop in the Buckeye State, suiting up alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust. It’s a similar story for all the Canadiens’ forwards, who will test out Michel Therrien’s fresh line combinations against Columbus. Lars Eller will center a line flanked by David Desharnais and Dale Weise, Tomas Plekanec will play between Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, and Manny Malhotra will center a trio with Michael Bournival and Jiri Sekac on the wing.
“When things aren’t going well offensively, it’s good to mix things up to create a spark. Sometimes, you can get a little bit too comfortable with your linemates and the production goes down. The simple fact is that having new faces around you can help you get your scoring touch back,” stressed Pacioretty, who will be looking to light the lamp for a fifth straight game on Wednesday night. “That’s the mentality that Michel wants to take into the start of the game, hoping that we can put more pucks on net. We saw it earlier this season in Vancouver. He changed the lines and it worked.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss explained that while shuffling the deck like this might appear somewhat drastic, it simply comes with the territory when a coach isn’t seeing his trios click as they should.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure that our players stay on their toes and to find solutions to generate more offense. This is a normal move for me,” confided Therrien, who, despite making moves up front, will not make any changes on the back end for Wednesday night’s game meaning that Mike Weaver will once again be a healthy scratch. “I want to see results when it comes to scoring chances. When I see a player who’s involved, even if he doesn’t score in the end, I know that by generating chances the results are going to come. When you see that a line isn’t generating chances, you have to make changes.”
- Sixteen points might separate the Canadiens and the Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference standings, but Michel Therrien’s contingent is approaching its 42nd game of the season like any other, particularly because Columbus boasts the type of talent that can defeat even the best of teams on any given night.
“They’ve been plagued by injuries. Their place in the standings doesn’t reflect the talent they have. We’ll have to play disciplined hockey because they’ve been successful with the man advantage lately,” admitted Therrien, referencing Columbus’ outstanding power play, which currently ranks second in the NHL. “We just have to play a good, tight game and take advantage of our chances.”
That’s something Lars Eller talked about, too, following the morning skate.
“We want to set the tone out there. I think we have some key assets to bring the game to their zone. We want to take charge and take control, not sit back at all,” offered Eller, who is looking for his first goal since December 29 in Carolina. “We respect them, but at the same time, we want them to adjust to us.”
- On Wednesday, young gun Jiri Sekac had his first opportunity to share his thoughts on being named to the rookie squad for the upcoming NHL All-Star Game in Columbus. Needless to say, the 22-year-old is excited to return to Ohio late next week to spend time with some of the league’s top players.
“I’m glad that it happened and I’m looking forward to it. It will be exciting to be around all of the NHL superstars. It will be a big thing for me,” praised Sekac, who will take Tanner Pearson’s spot on the roster after the Los Angeles Kings forward suffered a broken leg. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was looking forward to going on vacation. It’s big news for me. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
And, it’s safe to say that Therrien is pleased that Sekac has been given such a unique opportunity.
“It will be a good experience for him. That’s how he has to approach it. You learn a lot by learning from the best,” offered Therrien. “It will be a good weekend for him and it can only help his career.”
- Carey Price will make his 35th start of the season on Wednesday night. He holds a 2-3-1 record, a 2.81 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in seven career outings against the Blue Jackets. Columbus will go with Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes.
The Canadiens will have a second representative at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game on January 24 and 25 in Columbus, Ohio.
After Carey Price was named an All-Star last Saturday night, it was Jiri Sekac’s turn to get his invitation on Tuesday afternoon. The Czech forward will take part in the event as a rookie, replacing Los Angeles Kings young gun Tanner Pearson. Sekac will participate in the Skills Competition. He has seven goals and 15 points in 34 games this season.
- The Canadiens held a full morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday. The entire team practiced ahead of traveling to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Wednesday.
- For a second day in a row, the team spent the early part of practice working on the power play with coaches Clement Jodoin and Dan Lacroix. Head coach Michel Therrien continued to ice the same power play personnel as on Monday, opting for four forwards on a first wave comprised of P.-A. Parenteau, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, and defenseman P.K. Subban. The second wave of Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec and defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov also remained intact.
- Defenseman Mike Weaver spent the morning paired with Tom Gilbert on Tuesday, after sitting out the team’s previous twelve games. Initially sidelined with a concussion, Weaver has been a healthy scratch over the past seven outings.
- Out of the lineup since suffering a mild concussion on January 2 in New Jersey, P.-A. Parenteau participated in a third consecutive practice on Tuesday. Therrien hinted that the 31-year-old forward should be back on the ice against the Blue Jackets tomorrow, barring any complications during Wednesday’s morning skate.
- Therrien also confirmed that goaltender Carey Price will make his 35th start of the season in Columbus.
Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice:
Desharnais – Eller –Weise
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Gallagher
Prust – Galchenyuk – Parenteau
Bournival – Malhotra – Thomas/Sekac
Beaulieu – Gonchar
Markov – Subban
Gilbert – Weaver
- The Canadiens held a full morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday, notably dedicating the week’s first practice to special teams.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau practised with his teammates again on Monday, as the 31-year-old winger continues to recover from an upper body injury suffered on January 2 in New Jersey. It was Parenteau’s second full practice in as many opportunities since this weekend, although the Hull, QC native did not suit up against the Penguins on Saturday.
“I wasn’t gone for too long but it’s still been three games. I was happy to be back on the ice today and feel like part of the team again,” explained the Canadiens' off-season acquistion. “It was nothing major, but there’s a protocol to follow when you’re injured.”
Sidelined for a trio of games, Parenteau nevertheless made the most of his time away from the Habs bench, handling some advance scouting on what currently happens to be the team’s hot issue.
“I had the chance to get a different look at our power play from up in the press gallery,” added six-foot, 197-pounder. “I think it comes down to a question of speed and timing, which fortunately are two things we can improve on with the guys we have in this locker room.”
Subban’s ascension as a burgeoning NHL pugilist, however, may take a little longer than the 25-year-old star had been hoping.
“I’ve made zero progress,” cracked the Canadiens’ assistant captain. “Today he managed to get my undershirt over my head, so I don’t know if that’s progress or not. If it was for real, I think I would have had a chance though. There were no real punches thrown. It’s a process, we’re working on it."
Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice:
Pacioretty - Plekanec - Gallagher
Prust - Galchenyuk - Parenteau
Desharnais - Eller - Weise
Bournival - Malhotra - Sekac
Subban - Markov
Emelin - Gilbert
Beaulieu – Gonchar
MONTREAL - Quebecers really love their hockey.
Proof of that is readily available in the staging of the 16th ESSO Minor Hockey Festival at the Bell Centre. Forty teams from across the province of Quebec convened in Montreal to play 20 hockey games.
It provided the opportunity for 680 youngsters to hit the ice at the Canadiens' home rink for the first time. Participants from as far away as Saguenay and Rimouski made the trek to attend the two-day event which ran from 7:15 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.
To take part in the ESSO Minor Hockey Festival, teams showcased their creative sides. Youngsters and their respective organizations had to send the Canadiens a video featuring the famous "Go Habs Go" chant. The 40 teams were selected on the basis of their submissions.
Teams were made up of kids of all ages and skill levels from Novice to Bantam.
Carey Price has been selected by the NHL to represent the Canadiens at this year’s All-Star Weekend set to take place on January 24-25 in Columbus, OH. Price will make his fourth All-Star appearance this season, having previously taken part in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 editions of the annual event. Heading into Saturday’s game against the Penguins, the 27-year-old netminder has compiled a 22-10-1 record – placing him second league-wide for wins – while maintaining a 2.20 goals against average and 0.927 save percentage.
- The Canadiens held an optional game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday. Notably absent from practice ahead of facing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre were Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Sergei Gonchar, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Tom Gilbert.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering an upper body injury on January 2 in New Jersey. Despite being back on the ice for the entire practice however, the 31-year-old forward will nevertheless miss a third consecutive game on Saturday.
Called up from Hamilton on Thursday, Christian Thomas could play his first game with the Canadiens this season on Saturday.
“We didn’t play together often, but when we did, it worked well. I’m eager to see what he brings tonight because we play well together,” praised Bournival of his former Bulldogs teammate who has registered nine goals and five assists in 29 games in Hamilton this season. “Christian is a good skater and a hard worker with lots of talent. We know our role is to bring energy to the ice while also creating scoring chances, and that’s what we’ll focus on doing tonight.”
Representing the Habs’ most junior line meanwhile, with a combined 84 career NHL games between the three young forwards, Thomas won’t be the only one looking to make his mark on Saturday.
“We’re all still new to the NHL and we all want to make a good impression,” added Bournival, who scored twice against the Devils last Friday. “It’s a good opportunity to prove ourselves. We’re obviously still young, but if we work hard, we’ll get the scoring chances.”
- Facing Pittsburgh for the final time this year, the Canadiens will have the opportunity to win a second consecutive season series against Sidney Crosby & Co., having gone 2-1-0 opposite the Penguins in 2013-14.
Winners of a 4-1 decision at the Consol Energy Center most recently a week ago, the Habs won’t try to mess with what has proven to be a recipe for success.
“We’ve just got to have the same mindset as the last time we faced them,” admitted defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. “We weren’t happy with the result against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but we know that Pittsburgh’s another very good hockey club just like Tampa. We played a really good game in their building a week ago so we know they’re going to be hungry to come back here. It’s going to be a tough game and we’ve prepared ourselves for it.”
With the visitors ranked ninth in the NHL for goals per game with an average of 2.95, the Canadiens will have to keep a close eye on the always dangerous Evgeni Malkin (18 G-27 A-45 PTS) and Crosby (11 G – 32 A – 45 PTS), who sit fifth and ninth league-wide in individual scoring, respectively.
“They’re so skilled. You’ve just got to control that,” continued Beaulieu. “All of their lines can score so you can’t really match or discipline them; they’re so skilled on every line. If you put them on the power play you’ve got five super stars out there, so that’s something we’ll need to avoid, plus a good start will be key as usual.”
- Carey Price should make his 34th start of the season on Saturday night opposite the Pens, having tallied a 10-10-0-2 record in 22 career outings against Pittsburgh since 2007.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on TVA Sports and CBC.
- The Canadiens practiced at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday morning in preparation for their Saturday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, took to the ice for a third consecutive day on Friday to continue his rehab. He skated with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine prior to the start of practice, and then remained on the ice to participate in several practice drills with goaltenders Carey Price and Dustin Tokarski. Parenteau, however, did not participate in the general practice session. In his post-practice press conference, Therrien indicated that Parenteau is making progress, but would not suit up against Pittsburgh.
Lines and D pairings at practice: