WINNIPEG – Intensity and physicality were on full display during a tough afternoon practice for the Canadiens at the MTS Centre.
When Michel Therrien claimed his team needed to show more intensity on the ice following their Tuesday night loss to the Devils, he clearly had no intention of waiting to put that statement into practice. Therrien, along with his Canadiens took to the ice Wednesday afternoon at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg for a high-tempo skate that lasted over an hour, with an acute focus on penalty-killing, physicality and winning battles – of which there were many over the course of the day.
The Habs will need to bring every ounce of that same effort to the arena of Thursday night when they’ll go up against not only the third highest-hitting team in the league, but also one clawing desperately to keep their playoff hopes alive in their final game of the season.
“We all know we need to play with more intensity – especially at the start of games. I believe we were just going though the motions a little too much early in games and then were left trying to react,” explained Therrien, who will surely be looking for his team to match the Jets' desperation level on Thursday night. “For most of the season it was us setting the tone of the game and we have to get back to doing that. That’s why we made sure to have an intense practice today.”
While their coach’s message came through loud and clear Wednesday afternoon, Josh Gorges was quick to point out that while the team certainly needs to get back to being more physical, they need to do in the context of what’s brought them success in their comeback campaign.
“When the opportunity to make a hit is there we’ve got to take it. We’ve got to finish those hits and finish them hard. But if it’s not there, I don’t think we need to be running around looking for it,” said Gorges, who currently ranks eighth in the league with 110 blocked shots. “We need to play smart, we need to play within ourselves, but we definitely have to play with more of an edge and urgency. It’s not about getting 35 or 40 hits a night – it’s about hitting when the time is right and playing hard.”
One of the ways the Habs will have a chance to get more physical on Thursday night is through the re-addition of 6-foot-6, 205-pound Jarred Tinordi to the lineup. While the Habs’ bench boss liked what he saw from the 21-year-old in his first stint with the club, he sent the defenseman back down to Hamilton with a mission, and has liked what he’s seen from him since even better.
“Tinordi did well for us when he first came up and had all the excitement of making his first steps into the NHL,” said Therrien, of Tinordi’s six games with the club between March 16 and 27. “After that, he lost a little bit of his confidence. We want him to be more physical – that’s part of his game. He’s got to make sure that for a big kid like him, he’s a presence on the ice, and he did exactly that to finish the year in Hamilton. He’ll have an opportunity tomorrow and we believe in the young man.”
For Tinordi, the timing of the call-up give him the opportunity to show the kind of presence he’ll able to have at hockey’s highest level, with the payoff being a potential crack at the NHL’s second season.
“It’s obviously special to be around the Montreal Canadiens around playoff time and as a kid it’s something you grow up always dreaming about,” said Tinordi after his first practice back with the team. “I hope to get the chance to play, so I’m just going to work hard, and wait to see what happens.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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