BROSSARD – After closing out their road trip in style in Winnipeg, the Canadiens don’t plan on taking their collective feet off the accelerator as they open up a five-game home stand with a tilt against the Blue Jackets.
Going in search of their fourth consecutive victory, Michel Therrien’s troops returned from their season-long voyage, in which they collected six out of a possible eight points, with a renewed appreciation for what it means to never take opponents lightly – no matter their win or loss record.
While Columbus currently sits 10th in the Eastern conference at 2-3-0 and has dropped their last two games to the Red Wings and Bruins, respectively, defenseman Josh Gorges knows overlooking a squad that has generated 64 shots on goal during that span and lost by the slimmest of margins to a pair of high-octane teams would be a mistake.
“I think we learned a lot from that first game on the road [against the Flames]. We probably came into Calgary a little too loose, thinking this team’s rebuilding, we’ll just play a casual game, get the two points and move on to a tougher challenge. Coming out of that game, we really understood that there’s no such thing as an easy game,” affirmed Gorges, whose club will take on a Columbus team boasting reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in goal and the likes of Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky up front.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re facing or who they have in their lineup or who’s in or who’s injured. It’s tough to get two points in this league,” added the veteran rearguard. “Every night, if you want to be successful, you need to have the entire team pushing. After that game, I felt like we tightened up our team game. When we do that, we’re a good hockey club.”
That sentiment was echoed by Francis Bouillon on Thursday morning at the Bell Sports Complex. The 13-year-NHL veteran, who saw his fair share of the Blue Jackets as a member of the Predators between 2009 and 2012, knows that Columbus’ failure to qualify for postseason play the last four years will have no bearing on the outcome of the first meeting between the two clubs since Dec. 6, 2011.
“You can’t underestimate anyone. Every game is important. These are two points that we can go out and get,” confirmed the birthday boy, who turned 38 years old on Thursday. “We know that this year, with the new rules, it will be more complicated to make the playoffs. All of the points are important for us. Whether we’re going up against Columbus or Boston, it will be important for us to be at our best to pick up the win.
“For us, our identity is playing a full 60 minutes,” added Bouillon, who has two assists in six games on the season. “When we start out strong in the first period like we did in Winnipeg, we have success. It will be important for us to find our rhythm just as quickly against Columbus.”
That is often easier said than done for clubs in their first home game coming off an extended jaunt to distant time zones. Thursday night’s task is further complicated by the fact that the Habs won’t have Max Pacioretty at their disposal after the winger suffered a lower-body injury in Winnipeg, and Rene Bourque is questionable after coming down with the flu. The Canadiens, however, believe that they have the situation under control heading into their matchup with one of the two newest members of the Eastern conference in 2013-14.
“[Trap games like this] are something that we addressed briefly. We’re professionals here. You’re paid to show up every day and play as hard as you can for the logo on your chest,” mentioned Brendan Gallagher, who skated alongside Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk at practice on Thursday morning. “That’s what we’re going to do against Columbus. We’re not going to use travel as an excuse. We’re going to show up. We’re going to play our game and we’re going to compete for the two points.”
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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