BROSSARD – Despite a growing list of injuries, there was only one thing on the Habs’ mind Wednesday morning.
On the heels of a second tough loss in Ottawa, the Canadiens head back to Montreal facing a 3-1 series deficit and a must-win Game 5 at the Bell Centre. With injuries in the opening-round series against the Senators already having claimed Lars Eller, the Canadiens were handed some more difficult news, as gritty forwards Brandon Prust and Ryan White are both sidelined with upper-body injuries and won’t be available for action on Thursday night. After leaving Game 4 with a lower-body injury, Carey Price has yet to be ruled out for the team’s next tilt, but will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
For a team that’s built a season on surprising their detractors, Michel Therrien is evidently not only proud of the heart the Canadiens have shown since the start of the campaign, but also convinced that they’ve still got more left in the tank.
“We know this isn’t an ideal situation, but these guys are showing that they have a lot of courage – I know because I’m right there with them every day,” expressed Therrien, referring to the players in his lineup who have continued to fight through injury to give their best on the ice. “You look at Brian Gionta; he got hurt in the first game and has done everything possible to try and come back since. When the decision was finally made that he wasn’t going to be able to play anymore, he was absolutely devastated. Those are the hardest moments to see.
“These guys all have a lot of courage and we probably deserved a better fate than the one we’re facing at this moment,” he added. “But one thing’s for sure – with the type of character this team has, I know we’re going to play another strong game tomorrow and go out there and give it everything we have.”
Following an afternoon team stretching session in Brossard, Canadiens captain Brian Gionta took time to meet with the media and share some news on the injury that brought his playoff run to an end.
“It’s the same thing I dealt with last year, it’s the same injury – but it’s the other bicep this time – and unfortunately it’s one of those things that you just can’t do anything about,” said a disappointed Gionta, who will undergo surgery to repair his torn left bicep on Friday. “The timeline is the same as last time and we’re hopeful for the start of camp next season. It’s a long road but I’ve been there and I’ve done it and I know what’s ahead.”
Despite sustaining the injury in Game 1 of the series Gionta still managed to return to action, contributing everything he could two games later in Ottawa.
“There wasn’t any risk in playing Game 3, I took that into consideration. The damage was already done. It was just a matter of what kind of function I would have,” said Gionta, who logged 18:10 of ice-time in Game 3 while picking up an assist on the Habs’ lone goal of the match. “I tried going out there yesterday morning for the morning skate with a different tape job and it just wasn’t able to make it work. But, the way those guys battled last night, they deserved a win and it was a tough night for everybody. At the same time, the series still isn’t over and we’ve got a lot of guys in this room that can still pull this off. Everyone still believes in each other.”
Across the dressing room, P.K. Subban was echoing his captain’s sentiments, singularly focused on keeping his team alive when they hit the ice for Thursday’s must-win tilt.
“Gio’s [Gionta] obviously a huge part of our team – he’s our captain, he’s our leader – and it was pretty inspiring to see him try and battle through it for a couple of games, but now we need guys to step up,” said Subban, who scored the Habs’ opening goal in Tuesday night’s game. “We still have a pulse right now, we’re still alive and tomorrow’s game is the biggest of the season and we have to be ready to play. Our focus has to be on bringing the best we have to this next game.
“We can sit and talk about last night’s game all we want, but it’s over with, and quite frankly, I want to beat these guys,” concluded the Norris Trophy nominee. “We have another opportunity to go and do that tomorrow.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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