DETROIT – With Wednesday’s loss to the Penguins already behind them, the Habs hit the ice in Detroit looking forward to Friday’s game against the Red Wings.
Back on the Horse: After being replaced between the pipes by Peter Budaj for just the second time this season on Wednesday night, Carey Price was happy to be back stopping pucks as quickly as possible on Thursday morning. While the recently-named Olympian will be facing his Team Canada coach for the last time before the Games begin, auditioning for a starting role in Sochi is the furthest thing from the All-Star netminder’s mind at the moment.
“In my mind, it’s just the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings,” he stressed. “We’re not trying to do anything other than get two points for our hockey club at this point.”
Mix and Match: Following a tough night in Pittsburgh where his team allowed five goals before the second intermission, Michel Therrien juggled his D pairings on the blue line during Thursday’s practice. Among the changes was the all-new duo of Douglas Murray flanking Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, while Alexei Emelin slid back next to familiar partner Andrei Markov, and will make his return to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game as a healthy scratch.
“We’re trying to find solutions because we’re all aware we need to be better defensively,” admitted Therrien, whose squad has allowed an average of 4.5 goals-against in their last four games. “We worked on it again this morning, especially on our transition game heading back into our own end. It’s our job to work on things that aren’t going well. We’re still trying to find the right combinations to help make our defensemen as effective as possible. We have a lot of options.”
More accustomed to lining up to the right of Markov or Josh Gorges, Subban will be partnered with Murray for the first time this season when the puck drops on Friday night. While the two Habs rearguards each play very different brands of hockey, Subban is looking forward to getting to know the bruising Swedish blue-liner a little bit better on the ice.
“I think it’s good to be familiar with all D pairings. It’s a long season and you never know what can happen,” mentioned Subban, who is fourth among all NHL defensemen with 35 points this year. “We also know that the way the pairings are now, they may not finish the game that way. As of right now we’re just going with the flow and making sure we’re prepared to play and trying to get as familiar as we can with one another.”
Hail to the Victors: Back in Detroit for the first time since his freshman season at the University of Michigan, Max Pacioretty has some business to take care of at Joe Louis Arena even before the puck drops for the first game of his professional career in his old stomping grounds on Friday night. With a highly-anticipated rivalry game lined up between Pacioretty’s Wolverines and their in-state rival Michigan State Spartans on Thursday night, the 25-year-old power forward will be taking in the action alongside a crew of fellow Michigan alums.
“I’m going to wear my blue to the game tonight,” confirmed Paciroetty, who had 39 points in 37 games during his only season as a Wolverine, and whose sister is currently a student in Ann Arbor. “Playing games at the Joe was always a blast in college. It seemed like we played here quite often. We had a CCHA tournament here, GLI [Great Lakes Invitational Tournament] was here, the odd game against Michigan State was here so we played here pretty often, but [Friday] will be my first pro game here so I’m looking forward to it. The atmosphere is awesome. It’s close enough to both colleges that we both get fans. People in Michigan love their hockey. It’s a great rivalry and people love supporting games like that.”
Thursday’s NCAA game will also feature Habs prospect and Wolverines captain, Mac Bennett, who is in his senior year at Michigan and currently has six points in 18 games.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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