- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Saturday morning ahead of their tilt against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre. Fifteen players took part in the on-ice session.
- Those present included forwards Ryan White, Dale Weise, Daniel Briere, George Parros, Michael Bournival, Brandon Prust, Mike Blunden and Brendan Gallagher, along with defensemen Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Mike Weaver, Alexei Emelin, Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi. Goaltender Peter Budaj was also on the ice.
- Brandon Prust skated alongside his teammates for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury in mid-March, taking to the ice for the duration of the morning skate. The 30-year-old also spent some added time with Canadiens strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard, working on absorbing physical contact along the boards.
It’s safe to say Prust’s return to practice was a welcome sight for Canadiens players and coaches, who are looking forward to welcoming the gritty left-winger – and his added facial hair – back to the lineup in short order.
“I really liked his beard out there today. I think it brought a little added motivation for the boys out there for the playoffs. That’s something special he’s got growing there. I kind of like it,” said right-winger Dale Weise, who enjoyed good on-ice chemistry with Prust before the London, ON native was injured three weeks ago. “Good for him to get back out there. He looked pretty good, and it looks like he should be good to go for the start of the playoffs.”
- Mike Blunden, who hasn’t suited up for the Canadiens since Nov. 1 against Minnesota, will be in the lineup on Saturday night against the Rangers in place of George Parros. Called up on Friday from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Blunden is chomping at the bit to see game action at such a critical time of year.
“I already know what Michel [Therrien] expects of me. I’m just going to go out there and do my best,” offered the 27-year-old right-winger, who has 10 goals, 22 points and 76 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Bulldogs during the 2013-14 campaign. “It’s the last game of the year. It’s a big game. We’re playing for home-ice advantage. It’s always fun playing on Saturday nights at the Bell Centre. I’m sure it’s going to be loud and crazy.”
- Lars Eller was not present at practice as he remains sidelined due to illness. He will not suit up against the Rangers on Saturday night.
- The Lightning’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets on Friday night vaulted head coach Jon Cooper’s squad ahead of the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division standings heading into the Habs’ final game of the regular season on Saturday night. The win also put Tampa Bay in the driver’s seat in the race to secure home-ice advantage for their opening-round matchup against Montreal, as they now lead the Canadiens by a single point.
After a tough outing against the Islanders earlier in the week, however, the Habs' primary focus remains on turning in a stellar effort against a Rangers squad that is also playoff-bound.
“We'd love to have home-ice advantage. That’s an especially good thing when you’re playing here in Montreal with the atmosphere that we can bring. But, the most important thing is that we’re playing the right way. We want to focus in on the details, and play a playoff-style game tonight,” offered Josh Gorges. “I don’t like using the term “must win”. We’ve got to prepare to win, and we’ve got to prepare the right way in order to win a big game. This is a good team we’re playing. More than anything, we want to make sure that we’re playing the right way. You can’t go in with the mindset of a must-win game. Hockey doesn’t work that way. But, if we play the right way, do the right things and give ourselves a chance, we can live with the outcome as long as we do things the right way.”
- The Canadiens announced the signing of goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a two-year contract extension on Saturday. Details are available here.
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