- The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Thursday morning ahead of contesting Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the New York Rangers. The Habs will be trying to tie the series at three games apiece in order to force a seventh and deciding game on Saturday night in Montreal.
- Goaltender Mike Condon took part in the optional skate alongside Dustin Tokarski and Peter Budaj. For his part, Carey Price jumped on the ice during the latter stages of the skate to stretch with his teammates and work with goalie coach Stephane Waite.
- Only two players – Alexei Emelin and Dale Weise – were absent from practice on Thursday morning. Head coach Michel Therrien indicated that Emelin was a game-time decision. Weise, however, is unavailable for Game 6.
“Dale Weise suffered a body injury,” mentioned the Canadiens bench boss, who refused to divulge the exact nature of the forward’s injury following the morning skate at MSG.
Weise was injured in Game 5 after receiving an illegal hit to the head from John Moore. For his part, the Rangers forward was suspended for two games for the hit, one that forced Weise to leave Tuesday night’s game temporarily before he eventually returned to the Canadiens bench.
“When he got back in the game, he had already met with the team’s medical staff and he was feeling well enough to continue playing. These are things that we see on a regular basis, a player being able to go on playing before the injury really shows up the next day,” added Therrien, referencing one incident in particular that took place earlier in the series. “We saw it with the hit on Derek Stepan. He finished the game despite having a fractured jaw and undergoing surgery the next day. He missed one game and he was back the next. It’s a routine thing.”
- The Canadiens might have made Henrik Lundqvist’s life miserable in Game 5, but they fully expect the Vezina Trophy winner to rebound on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault elected to pull Lundqvist with 11:02 remaining in the second period of Tuesday night’s tilt at the Bell Centre after the Swedish netminder allowed four goals on 19 shots.
“He’s been through that type of situation before. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the world. We know that he’s going to be on top of his game tonight,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who boasts four goals and 11 points in 16 playoff games in 2014. “It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
That being said, Michel Therrien’s troops fully intend on sticking to a game plan that enabled them to give Lundqvist all he could handle in his previous outing.
“When it comes to Lundqvist, we’re going to focus on the things that have given us success. It’s about going to the net, looking for rebounds, looking for tips and making sure that he can’t see the puck,” explained Josh Gorges. “We’ll just have to continue doing those things. If he sees the puck, there’s a good chance he’s going to stop it. We’ve got to continue to make life difficult for him.”
- After serving a two-game suspension, Brandon Prust will be back in uniform on Thursday night. He will likely take Weise’s spot in the lineup.
“We expect Brandon to play some good hockey. He’s excited to get back to work. He’ll want to play hard. We’re really happy to have him back in our lineup,” mentioned Therrien, who featured Prust on a line with Rene Bourque and Lars Eller at the morning skate.
If Therrien is pleased to welcome Prust back to active duty, it’s safe to say his teammates are as well.
“Prusty is a big part of our team. He’s a guy who competes every shift. He’s going to battle hard. We know exactly what we’re going to get from him,” praised Gallagher. “He’s going to be effective because of the way he plays on the ice. He’s a presence. We’re certainly happy to have him back in the lineup.”
Projected lineup vs. NYR - Game 6:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Gallagher
Gionta – Plekanec – Galchenyuk
Bourque – Eller – Prust
Vanek – Briere – Bournival
Parros – White – Moen
Gorges - Subban
Markov - Weaver
Bouillon - Beaulieu
Tinordi - Murray
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