This is it
One-by-one, a loosey-goosey bunch of Canadiens skated onto the ice, including two players in particular. One was shot-blocking monster Hal Gill, who was only a few days removed from having his leg sliced by skate. The other was All-Star Andrei Markov, out since injuring his knee in Game 1 of this series.
Needless to say, their taking part in a full team practice did not go unnoticed.
“It was definitely nice to see those guys out on the ice there with us,” said Josh Gorges, who would like nothing more than to rekindle his penalty-killing and shot-blocking bro-mance with Gill. “If he can be out there beside me tonight it would be a huge lift for the team and a big lift for me personally. The way we’ve been playing together so far, battling in a Game 7 with Hal with me would be fine with me.”
As for whether or not Gill or Markov or both will be ready to suit up for Game 7, their mere presence on the ice at Mellon Arena on Wednesday morning had their teammates fired up.
“Just seeing Marky out there had us all smiling,” said Ryan O’Byrne before providing his assessment of his partner’s first full practice with the team. “He was Marky: sniping goals on 2-on-0 drills feathering perfect saucers from half way across the ice. He just never misses a beat. I mean he missed three months this year and looked awesome his first day back then, too. Will he be back tonight, though? You never know, right?”
One thing that is certain is the magnitude of this do-or-die Game 7. Already a perfect 4-0 in elimination games this spring, the Habs know exactly what they’re up against.
“So far we’ve been able to find a way to win the big ones and besides, we wouldn’t have come all this way to Pittsburgh if we didn’t believe in our chances to win this thing,” quipped a pom-pom free Marc-Andre Bergeron. “We’re not here to cheer on the Penguins. We believe that anything is possible.”
According to Gorges, those expecting a tactical chess match in Game 7 might be in for a disappointing evening.
“You really do throw the Xs and Os out of the window in a game like this,” said Gorges, with his head coach thankfully not within earshot. “This is all about who wants it more and who is willing to pay the biggest price.”
Meanwhile at the camp of the defending Cup champs, it’s all about channeling what got them to the top of the mountain last spring and anxiously waiting for their springtime savior to emerge.
“The sign of a good team is the ability for anyone to be the hero,” said Pens head coach Dan Bylsma. “Tonight it could very well be Mike Rupp as much as Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. It’s how we play as a team that will determine who the hero will be tonight.”
With his cape, tights and utility belt nowhere in sight in his stall at Mellon Arena, playoff scoring leader Michael Cammalleri didn’t expect to be rushing to the nearest phone booth on Wednesday night.
“No one needs to be the hero tonight,” vowed Cammalleri. “We just need to play our game. That’s all.”
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.
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