BROSSARD – After posting back-to-back wins, the Canadiens will face their biggest test so far this season on Sunday night.
Since stumbling in their season opener at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens have been steadily gaining momentum in their last two games, downing both the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals with 4-1 victories. With a pair of confidence-builders now under their belt, the Habs are set to put themselves to the test against Martin Brodeur and the undefeated New Jersey Devils Sunday night at the Bell Centre.
“They’re an organization that I have a lot respect for,” said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien of his team’s upcoming adversaries. “Year after year they’re a team that’s always competitive. When you talk about the idea of a ‘team system and concept’ and players needing to accept playing within that system, it’s easy to see that the Devils are among the best at it.”
Therrien also took the time to confirm that after being a healthy scratch for the last two games, Habs fans can look forward to seeing Lars Eller make his return to the lineup on Sunday night. With Max Pacioretty out with a fever and listed as a game time decision against the Devils, Eller could potentially step into his place on a line with David Desharnais and Erik Cole. While the Canadiens bench boss refused to pinpoint where the Dane would fit in tomorrow evening, he made sure to mention that the decision to play Eller was made before he knew Pacioretty was feeling under the weather.
“I decided yesterday that Lars is going to get back into the lineup,” continued Therrien. “We have to have healthy competition in our team, and he’s a young man who’s part of this group and who we care about and who we want to be better, so he’ll be playing tomorrow and will be able to keep on improving. He’s got a great attitude and he knows what we expect of him.”
In addition to taking on one of the best teams in the East on Sunday, Canadiens captain, Brian Gionta will also get the chance to go head to head with a familiar face on the opposing squad.
“I hear they’ve got a pretty good kid in there as their third-line center, number 11. I think he’s pretty much been carrying the load for Parise,” grinned Gionta, whose younger brother Stephen scored his first goal of the season with the Devils Friday night against the Capitals. “I was watching the game last night and it was nice to see him score, for sure. As long as he doesn’t score tomorrow night we’re alright.
“We had the one chance to play against each other a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun,” he added. “Tomorrow night will be his first game here so I’m sure he’ll have quite the experience.”
When the puck drops against New Jersey the Habs will have to contend not only with the offense of sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, but also the Devils’ 40-year-old phenom goaltender, Martin Brodeur. He may be among the oldest netminders in the league, but that hasn’t stopped the Montreal native from posting a 0.98 GAA and a sparkling .958 save percentage over the first three games of 2012-13.
“We know we’re facing a good team not to mention arguably the greatest goalie of all-time. He always plays well against us,” expressed Josh Gorges, of Brodeur’s tendancy to play his best hockey on Montreal ice. Gorges also went on to give his take on the Habs’ secret to success over their last two games.
“We’re playing responsibly in our own end. But it all stems from what we’re doing 280 feet down the ice. When we play a good offensive game with forechecking, we get the cycle game going in the offensive zone, we don’t have to play as much defensively,” he added. “Now, we have to make sure that we play our best game tomorrow night as well.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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