- 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.
- The Canadiens held a full game day skate at Joe Louis Arena on Monday.
- Called up from Hamilton on Sunday, defenseman Greg Pateryn skated with his teammates at practice although head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that the 24-year-old will not make his 2014-15 debut against the Red Wings. Tom Gilbert will be back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game against Toronto.
- After watching star defenseman P.K. Subban log a career-high 35:21 of ice team against the Maple Leafs over the weekend, Therrien stressed that he is not anticipating another ironman outing from the Canadiens’ assistant captain on Monday.
“We don’t expect him to play 35 minutes again tonight. Last game was the result of a unique set of circumstances – losing Sergei [Gonchar] for the game and Nathan [Beaulieu] for most of the second period – but luckily for us, P.K. is the type of guy who rises to those kinds of challenges,” praised the Habs’ bench boss. “He’s a guy who’s able to learn and we couldn’t have asked for more from him last game. He was extraordinary.”
Subban for his part insisted that despite the heavy workload, he’s ready to go for another marathon outing should his coach call for it.
“I feel good, but it helps when we don’t have practice [the next day]. I always enjoy sleeping in a bit,” cracked the 25-year-old, who nevertheless stressed that it’s not the quantity of minutes that count so much as the quality. “Part of being a pro is managing your body and I’m feeling good today. Whether I play five minutes or 35 minutes tonight, what I just need to make sure of most of all, is that I’m playing the best that I can. Every minute counts against these guys.”
- Coming off a string of games against teams struggling in the standings, the Canadiens now get set to face a Red Wings squad currently ranked third in the Atlantic Division, just four points behind Montreal.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a crucial game yet, but it’s a good test to see where we are right now. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played before the end of the season, but tonight’s a good opportunity to extend our lead atop the division,” admitted David Desharnais, who has racked up seven points in seven career games against Detroit. “They’ve got guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk who are always dangerous, and also young guys like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist who are very good.”
If the Red Wings have earned a reputation among the NHL’s elite over the years, part of that is thanks to one particular aspect of their play.
“They’re a good puck possession team and they’ll often skate right into your zone with the puck rather than dumping and chasing,” explained Max Pacioretty, who has picked up a pair of assists in two against Detroit this season. “Our job is going to be to force them into making mistakes. We’re going to need to be patient and play a full 60 minutes.”
- Currently in one of the busiest stretches of the 2014-15 season, with 14 games over 28 days in February, staying healthy will be key as the regular season begins to wind down.
“You need to really take care of your body at this point in the year. I went to bed earlier than usual last night, because it’s important to be rested,” added Pacioretty, who will make his 375th NHL start on Monday at just 26 years of age. “That’s where the years of experience can pay off – knowing how to take of yourself after games and doing the right things off the ice to feel good when you’re on it. I’m confident that the guys in this room are mature enough to make the right decisions and come out with full energy every night."
The Canadiens called up defenseman Greg Pateryn from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday. Pateryn will join the team in Detroit and should be available to head coach Michel Therrien for Monday’s tilt at Joe Louis Arena.
In 49 games with the Bulldogs this season, the 24-year-old rearguard has registered two goals, 11 assists and 56 penalty minutes. Pateryn makes his first stint with Montreal this season after previously playing three games with the Canadiens in 2012-13.
Veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, currently sidelined with an upper body injury, did not travel with his teammates on Sunday. Gonchar did not finish Saturday’s game against Toronto.
- The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday ahead of their tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre. Michel Therrien’s troops are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, while Peter Horachek’s contingent has dropped their last two outings. Interestingly enough, Saturday night’s contest will mark the Canadiens’ 400th consecutive regular season sell out on home ice.
- After sitting out the last five games as healthy scratches, forward Manny Malhotra and defenseman Mike Weaver will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Saturday night. Jiri Sekac and Tom Gilbert will watch the game from the press box.
“Athletes are proud people. You want to play. You want to contribute to the team. When you’re not in the lineup, you end up just watching. It’s not fun. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there,” offered Malhotra, who, like Weaver, hasn’t suited up since February 1 against the Arizona Coyotes. “We’ll be ready to play. We want to change the mentality out there that we can’t win against teams that are at the bottom of the standings.”
- It’s been quite some time since the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs went up against one another. The two teams last met back on opening night in early October. Tomas Plekanec lit the lamp in the final minute of regulation time to secure a 4-3 victory for the Habs. Since then, the Canadiens have enjoyed their fair share of success, while the Maple Leafs have struggled to string wins together, losing 21 of their last 25 games.
“We know what they’ve been going through over there. They’re hungry for wins. I’m sure they want to get back to that feeling, but that’s not something we’re too concerned about. We’re in a race for positioning in the standings and that’s what we’ve got to focus on every night. It’s very important, especially on home ice. We’ve got to take care of that,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who is just two points shy of reaching the 100-point mark for his NHL career. “I’m sure the intensity will be just like every other game. It will be competitive. Both teams respect each other. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.”
So, how do the Canadiens plan on avoiding a letdown similar to the one that took place against the Oilers earlier in the week?
“We’ve just got to focus on ourselves. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We have to keep doing what’s made us successful as a team. When we’re doing those things, we’re a good hockey team. When we’re not, we’re pretty mediocre,” stressed Gallagher, who has four goals and 10 points in 10 career regular season games against the Maple Leafs. “It’s just about getting back to what we talk about before every game, sticking to our game plan for the full 60 minutes and overtime and a shootout, if needed.”
- Like Gallagher, Brandon Prust emphasized the importance of not making the same mistakes that ultimately cost the Canadiens a point in their most recent outing.
“We didn’t play very well last game, so we want to accomplish a lot more. Better puck management. We had a lot of turnovers last game. We were sloppy. We tried to do too much,” admitted Prust, who is intimately familiar with the Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry having grown up in Southwestern Ontario. “We know the game we have to play to win and to be successful. We’re at our best when we’re playing top teams and we’re keeping our game simple, we get pucks out and we win puck battles on the walls. That’s how we’re going to win a Stanley Cup. We need to do that every night.”
- Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. It will be his 44th start of the season. Price boasts a 14-13-1 record, a 2.74 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 28 career appearances against the Maple Leafs. Jonathan Bernier will likely get the start in goal for Toronto.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports, in addition to the NHL Network in the United States.