- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday ahead of their tilt against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Defenseman Alexei Emelin skated alone prior to the start of practice under the supervision of athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine, taking part in a number of light on-ice workouts, while also testing his shot. The 28-year-old rearguard has been sidelined with an upper body injury since taking an awkward hit into the boards on February 18 in Ottawa. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed however that Emelin will travel with the team to California on Sunday.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau practiced alongside his teammates for the entirety of Saturday’s morning skate. The 31-year-old forward has been cleared to play since missing the last 18 games with a concussion suffered on January 15 in Ottawa, although he will not be in uniform against the visiting Maple Leafs.
- Sergei Gonchar returns to the lineup on Saturday after missing the last six games with an upper body injury suffered the last time Toronto was in town, taking a hit from behind from since-departed Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson on February 14.
“I’m playing tonight. I’ve been feeling better and better, our medical staff has done a great job of preparing me, and that’s why I’m ready to go,” confirmed the 40-year-old D-man who will be paired with recent call-up Greg Pateryn opposite the Leafs after previously mentoring another young teammate in Nathan Beaulieu on the blue line. “It’s strange [to be making my return against Toronto], but sometimes things work out that way.”
Gonchar’s return also comes with less than 25 games remaining on the 2014-15 regular season schedule, although the seasoned vet insists he’s comfortable with the timing.
“It can be harder to come back towards the end of the year, when teams are playing at a higher level and competing for a playoff spot, but I’ve been around for over 20 years so I know what to expect.”
- After registering a team-high four hits in his Canadiens debut during Thursday’s 5-2 win in Columbus, forward Devante Smith-Pelly now gets set to step onto the Bell Centre ice for the first time on Saturday.
“I’m excited. It’s a special building to play in and for my first game to be against the Leafs makes it even more so,” admitted the 22-year-old Toronto-native. “I’m happy to have my family coming in to town and I’m looking to have some fun tonight. I already played them twice this season [in Anaheim], but these are the games I watched growing up. It’s going to be special and I’m excited.”
Eager to get acquainted with his new teammates and coaches, the Habs newcomer has nevertheless taken part in just a pair of practices since being traded to Montreal in exchange for rookie forward Jiri Sekac on Tuesday.
“I went over video and spoke with the coaches to make sure that I know the system,” acknowledged Smith-Pelly, who was also in Brossard on Friday during the team’s day off. “That’s helped me get it a little bit more but at the end of the day it’s still hockey, so a big part of it will be reading and reacting.”
Tested on a pair of lines against the Blue Jackets most recently meanwhile, the six-foot, 220-pound winger continues to make strides while easing into his new role with the Habs.
“It was good. Prusty [Brandon Prust] and Rosey [Jacob De La Rose] like to get it deep and grind it out, which is the way I play as well,” added Smith-Pelly. “With Gally [Brendan Gallagher] and Pleky [Tomas Plekanec] it was a little different – two highly skilled guys – but that’s just going to take some getting used to. By playing together we’ll figure it out.”
- With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, Therrien suggested that the prospect of another trade has not brought any additional stress into the Canadiens dressing room heading into Monday.
“I don’t think guys are nervous. There’s chemistry in our room and the group is united. The guys enjoy coming to work every day and working hard,” underlined the Habs bench boss, who will close out the month of February atop the Atlantic Division, and possibly the Eastern Conference as well. “That’s true not only for practices, but also for games, which is even more important. Honestly, I don’t think anything has changed within our group. We’re having fun together.”
Forward Christian Thomas was assigned to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday afternoon.
Called up for a second stint in Montreal on January 25, Thomas has now played a total of 18 games with the Canadiens in 2014-15, notably scoring his first NHL goal on February 12 against Edmonton.
In 31 games with the Bulldogs this season, the 22-year-old winger has registered nine goals -- including two power play markers -- in addition to six assists.
Thomas should join the Bulldogs in time for this weekend's games against the Charlotte Checkers and Utica Comets on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, although he will not be in uniform on Friday.
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi was assigned to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday morning.
Called up on February 18, Tinordi played four games with the Canadiens during his second stint in Montreal since the start of the season, registering 12 penalty minutes and one shot on goal.
In 35 games with the Bulldogs in 2014-15, the 23-year-old rearguard has picked up seven points (1G-6A-7PTS) and 34 penalty minutes along with a plus-8 differential.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Blue Jackets.
|Devante Smith-Pelly at practice in Columbus on Thursday.
- After arriving in Columbus on Wednesday night, Devante Smith-Pelly took part in his first practice alongside his new teammates. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Smith-Pelly would be in the lineup on Thursday night and play right-wing. He did not, however, indicate what line Smith-Pelly would be featured on. Christian Thomas will be a healthy scratch to make room for Smith-Pelly to debut against the Blue Jackets.
- Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. It will be his 49th start of the season. Curtis McElhinney should get the call between the pipes for the Blue Jackets.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East and RDS.
- After securing a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center, the Canadiens practiced at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Wednesday afternoon. Michel Therrien’s troops will battle the Blue Jackets on Thursday night before returning to Montreal.
- Defenseman Andrei Markov was given the day off from practice. The veteran rearguard took part in off-ice workouts instead.
- Devante Smith-Pelly didn’t make it to Columbus in time to participate in Wednesday’s on-ice session. He should arrive in Ohio sometime this evening, and he is scheduled to be at the morning skate on Thursday. Therrien said that he will meet with Smith-Pelly upon his arrival in Columbus, and that the 22-year-old winger should play versus the Blue Jackets.
- Following practice, the Canadiens’ bench boss confirmed that Sergei Gonchar and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau will not take part in Thursday night’s game. He also confirmed that Carey Price will get the start in goal against the Blue Jackets.
Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice:
Prust-De La Rose-Weise
- After traveling to St. Louis on Monday, the Canadiens held a morning skate at Scottrade Center on Tuesday ahead of their tilt against the Blues.
- All of Michel Therrien’s troops were present and accounted for at practice, except for newcomer Devante Smith-Pelly, who was acquired from Anaheim on Tuesday morning in exchange for Jiri Sekac. Smith-Pelly, who is still in Southern California, will not suit up against St. Louis. He should, however, join his new teammates on Wednesday in Columbus. He will sport No. 21 for the Canadiens.
"I see it as a trade where two teams fulfilled their respective needs. We let Jiri go. He’s an excellent skater. He can make plays. But, we went out and got a player that plays hard minutes. He’s a physical guy. He’s good on the forecheck. He’s good along the boards. He’s also a young player with a lot of potential," offered Therrien. "We like his intensity. He’s a guy who finishes his hits. He’s got playoff experience. He’s had a lot of success for his age. There’s good potential to work with a young guy like that."
- Following practice, Therrien confirmed that he’d be utilizing the same line combinations and defensive pairings on Tuesday night that have been featured at practice as of late. That means that Alex Galchenyuk will be back in the lineup on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller. Galchenyuk had missed the last two games due to illness.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau took part in his first practice alongside his teammates since suffering a concussion back on January 15. Parenteau’s return to active duty is still unknown.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS and Sportsnet East.
Probable lineup vs. St. Louis
Pacioretty – Desharnais - Gallagher
Eller – Plekanec – Galchenyuk
Bournival – Malhotra – Thomas
Prust – De La Rose- Weise
Subban - Markov
Beaulieu - Gilbert
Pateryn - Tinordi
Gonchar – Weaver
- The Canadiens practiced at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday before departing for a two-game Midwestern road trip. The Habs will take on the Blues in St-Louis on Tuesday ahead of meeting the Blue Jackets for the third and final time this season in Columbus on Thursday.
- Having missed the last four games, Sergei Gonchar was back at practice on Monday for the first time since suffering an upper body injury against Toronto on February 14. The veteran defenseman made his on-ice return sporting the Canadiens’ powder blue no-contact practice jersey, but will nevertheless travel with the team to St-Louis. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Gonchar has been cleared to play but the decision to dress him will be made day-to-day.
- Still sidelined with a concussion, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated on the second ice surface with strength & conditioning coach Pierre Allard on Monday while the rest of the team practiced on the main rink. The 31-year-old forward will also make the two-game trip.
- Alex Galchenyuk was back with his teammates in Brossard after missing the last two games with the flu. The 21-year-old forward practiced on the right wing, flanking Tomas Plekanec on a line opposite Lars Eller.
- After getting into a pair of fights against Columbus on Saturday night, Christian Thomas and Jarred Tinordi were back at practice wearing a full cage and a visor with a jaw protector as precautionary measures, respectively.
- Alexei Emelin was absent from practice on Monday. Sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered on February 18 in Ottawa, the 28-year-old rearguard was the only player to not make the trip.
Offensive lines and defensive pairings at practice
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Gallagher
Eller – Plekanec – Galchenyuk
Bournival – Malhotra – Thomas
Prust – De La Rose – Weise
Subban – Markov
Beaulieu – Gilbert
Pateryn – Tinordi
Gonchar – Weaver
- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday ahead of their tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre.
- Although Subban benefited from a therapy day away from the ice in Brossard, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed following practice that the star defenseman will be in the lineup to face Columbus.
- Alex Galchenyuk meanwhile, currently sidelined with the flu, will not dress opposite the Jackets. He’ll be replaced up front by Manny Malhotra for a second consecutive outing, leaving Thursday’s lineup against the Panthers intact.
- Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar will also be out of the lineup for a second and fourth game, respectively on Saturday, giving the next guys in a line another opportunity to prove themselves with the big club.
“We haven’t had a lot of injuries this year, but it’s going to come at some point,” acknowledged Lars Eller, who has seen his team on pace for its healthiest season in over six years with just 56 man-games lost so far. “Right now we’re in that situation with a couple of D guys out, but we’re lucky to have such good young guys that are ready to step in and I think they did an amazing job – [Jarred] Tinordi and [Greg] Pateryn – last game and everybody’s confident that they can keep it up moving forward.”
Even the young guns themselves called up as reinforcements for a pair of seasoned vets share that confidence heading into the weekend.
“This is our chance. It’s a good opportunity for us to show what we can do. It’s tough for defensemen, but I’m just playing my game and doing whatever I can to help the team win,” underlined Tinordi, who ate up 11:39 of ice time in his 2015 Canadiens debut on Thursday. “The big thing for me is consistency. I have to prepare for each game like it’s my last one. I need to play hard and have fun out there.”
Fortunately for Tinordi, the 23-year-old rearguard will have a familiar friend to lean on who knows a thing or two about making a good impression when he makes his eleventh career start with the Habs on Saturday.
“We all look out for each other. Even though we all have the same goal, we all want to be bonafide NHL players,” confessed Nathan Beaulieu, who spent three seasons with Tinordi in Hamilton before finally sticking in Montreal through 43 games this season. “We all help each other. We pick each other up when we’re down. There have been a lot of highs and lows for us over the last two and a half seasons and we’ve always been there for each other.”
- Despite firing a season-high 44 shots on goal against the Senators on Wednesday followed by another 39 opposite the Panthers on Thursday, the Habs have only found the back of the net four times over their pair of most recent outings.
While he’d like to see more goals, Coach Therrien was nevertheless able to identify the positives in his team’s increased offensive efforts despite picking up just a single point across two back-to-back losses.
“I appreciate the effort our players are showing. I like the number of pucks we’re putting on goal and the number of scoring chances we’re creating. As a coach I can’t ask for more,” admitted the Habs bench boss. “We had 20 scoring chances last game while giving up just nine. Usually you win those games and while we came out on the wrong side on Thursday, I think we played well and need to keep at it.”
The Habs will have the opportunity to do just that and reverse their fortunes in front of the net against a Blue Jackets team which arrives in Montreal allowing the fifth-most goals per game with an average of 3.07.
“We need to get more shots from the inside. We’ve been getting a lot from the outside, but we’ve got to get in front of the goalie to take his eyes away, get rebounds and score dirty goals,” prescribed Lars Eller. “[Brendan] Gallagher got two of those last game, and often those are the ones that go in. We all have to get in there and win those battles in the crease. I think that’s where it starts.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST at the Bell Centre on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on City Montreal and TVA Sports.
- The Canadiens held an optional game day skate at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Wednesday.
- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed on Tuesday that Dustin Tokarski will be in goal against the Sens. The 25-year-old netminder will make his 12th start this season, entering Wednesday’s contest with a 91.4% save percentage and 2.67 goals against average.
Following injuries to Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson, Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond meanwhile will make his first career NHL start on Wednesday against the Habs. The 27-year-old backup entered Monday’s game against Carolina in relief of Lehner most recently, giving up two goals on five shots over 21 minutes of ice time to the visiting Hurricanes.
“Whenever you’re facing a guy in that type of situation, you need to shoot as often as possible and hope to get an early goal,” prescribed Habs sniper Max Pacioretty, who has already found the back of the net 26 times this season. “Getting shots on goal will keep him on edge and we need to find a way to do that tonight.”
- Called up from Hamilton on Sunday, defenseman Greg Pateryn will make his 2014-15 Canadiens debut on Wednesday. Despite getting his first NHL action since the 2012-13 season, Pateryn should nevertheless be able to find a familiar face on the ice in Ottawa.
“I think I’ll be paired with Nathan Beaulieu tonight. We have good chemistry thanks to the two years we spent in Hamilton together. I always know where he is on the ice because he’s a good communicator and he’s going to be a big help for me tonight,” acknowledged Pateryn, who replaces veteran Mike Weaver on the blue line. “My game has changed since a year ago. I’ve refined certain things which have allowed me to get this chance, and now it’s up to me to prove that I belong here.”
“We wanted to give him a bit of a break so that he could come back as a better player. We gave him some time to work on his passing and forechecking,” explained the Habs bench boss of the 6-foot-2, 195-pound winger who returns to the lineup for the first time since February 12. “We did something similar at the start of the season and it worked out well for us. Now we’re hoping that he’ll respond the same way tonight.”
With just 47 games of NHL experience under his belt, Sekac knows a permanent roster spot is still his to earn, but the 22-year-old Czech is also fortunate enough to count on sufficient previous experience to be up for the challenge.
“I don’t consider myself a rookie. This is my fourth year as a professional hockey player so I should be mentally strong and I know how to deal with situations like these,” continued Sekac, who played three seasons in the KHL before arriving in Montreal this year. “Obviously it’s never easy to be benched but I’m just happy to get another chance and now I’ll do my best to make the most of it.”
- Ranked fourth in the NHL with a 85.4% penalty kill efficiency, the Habs have not only found success in protecting their own defensive zone this season, but have also been able to create scoring chances – even when down a man – thanks to the presence of players like Pacioretty and Plekanec.
“A lot of strategy goes into a functioning P.K. unit, even though sometimes it might look like we’re just reacting to what’s happening on the ice,” described Pacioretty, who has taken on additional defensive responsibilities this season, which have in turn paid off with a plus-29 differential. “I just need to work on mixing things up a little bit now to surprise the other team and create even more scoring chances. We’ve had a lot already, but we’re getting more with every shift.”
- The Canadiens held an afternoon skate at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata on Tuesday. The team arrived in the Ottawa suburb early in the morning following Monday’s game in Detroit.
- Defenseman Andrei Markov was the only player absent from practice, benefiting instead from a therapy day off the ice.
|The 2015 Habs baseball on ice champions.
- Coming off an impressive 2-0 win in Detroit on Monday, head coach Michel Therrien decided to reward his players with an unconventional practice, notably opting for a game of baseball on ice – a mashup the Habs have played at least once a year since a group of players invented it several seasons ago.
The winning side from the 2015 edition of what's become the Canadiens Pastime was drafted by Nathan Beaulieu and consisted of Dan Lacroix, Dustin Tokarski, Max Pacioretty, and Tom Gilbert. A photo of the latest championship team will soon hang somewhere within the halls of the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard after Clement Jodoin immortalized the moment at center ice postgame.
- Therrien confirmed on Tuesday that goaltenders Dustin Tokarski and Carey Price will split the work between the team’s upcoming back-to-back set against the Senators and Panthers. Tokarski will notably get the start on Wednesday in Ottawa while Carey Price will be back between the pipes at home on Thursday when the Panthers visit the Bell Centre.
- The Habs bench boss did not touch on any other potential changes to Wednesday’s lineup, indicating instead that a game day decision will be made in Ottawa.