BROSSARD – Going up against the best the NHL has to offer is always a good measuring stick for any given team.
Michel Therrien’s troops will have that opportunity come Saturday night when they go up against the league’s top team right now in the San Jose Sharks.
“It’s our biggest challenge so far,” admitted Therrien, referencing the Northern California-based franchise that will take to the ice against the Habs over the weekend at the Bell Centre. “In my eyes, the Sharks are the best team in the NHL since the start of the season. Their differential is impressive and they continue to do a lot of good things.”
Like their point total thus far this season – 17 – the Sharks’ differential of 41 goals for and just 18 against is tops in the league. Todd McLellan’s squad also sets the standard with an average of four goals per game and currently ranks third in goals against with an average of 1.7 goals per game.
"They’re a team that’s going to put pressure on the opposition, that goes to the net, that’s solid defensively and they have a good goaltender," added Therrien, referring to goaltender Antti Niemi, who has played all 10 of the Sharks’ games during the 2013-14 campaign and boasts a record of 8-1-1. "When you look at their team as a whole, I’m not afraid to say that they are the best team in the NHL right now and it will be a very big challenge for our team."
Even though the Sharks dealt him to the Canadiens eight seasons ago, Saturday night’s game will be particularly meaningful for Josh Gorges.
"It’s an excellent challenge. As a player, you always want to go up against the best. To have been traded by that team, there’s always a little something extra involved. You want to come out hard and make sure that you win the game," underlined Gorges, who will play his sixth career tilt against his former team. "It will be a tough game and we’ll have to be even better than we were on Thursday night."
Douglas Murray might not have had the opportunity to play a single game with the Canadiens since joining the bleu-blanc-rouge over the summer, but he can still give his teammates plenty of advice when it comes to matching up against their opponents on Saturday night. The Swedish rearguard played 451 of his 465 career NHL games with the Sharks, and knows what they're all about.
"It doesn’t surprise me that they’re having that kind of success. When I was there, we also had some good streaks. They’re a dangerous team when they’re playing well. That’s the case right now. They lost on Thursday and we’re hoping that it marks the end of that winning sequence for them," noted Murray, who is inching closer to a return to action, having skated alongside his teammates for the first time on Friday morning. "My injury situation is being evaluated day by day. I’m feeling a lot better. Mentally, I feel like I can play. I’m still waiting for the green light from the doctors."
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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