Pieces of the puzzle
BROSSARD – The Sabres lose a major piece of their team puzzle in Miller, while the Habs take a big step towards getting one back in Markov.
While the Canadiens will face a Ryan Miller-less Buffalo squad Monday night in Montreal, the Habs aren't expecting an easy ride as Sabres backup, Jhonas Enroth, will step between the pipes at the top of his game.
“We’re not going to see Miller tonight, but Enroth is good goalie and I don’t think he’s lost a game in regulation yet this year, so we can’t bank on the fact that Miller’s not playing,” said Max Pacioretty of Enroth’s perfect record of five wins in five starts in 2011-12. “We have to play our game and get pucks to the net and get bodies to the net as well.
“We want to go out there and keep playing tight defensively. We haven’t been scoring a ton of goals lately, but that’s alright because we’re playing such a good defensive team game,” added the Habs’ most recent overtime hero. “If we keep it that way we shouldn’t have to score five goals to win a game, we’ll only need two or three.”
No stranger to seeing backup goalies have big games at the Bell Centre, defenseman Josh Gorges discussed the energizing effect the Montreal arena can have, especially on a night where the Sabres will be looking to rebound from an embarrassing loss.
“We have to always expect that whoever we play, their goalies and skaters are going to be at their best. I think this is a fun place to play when guys come here on the road – the building is electric and guys get excited. We don’t always have it as easy at home because other teams always seem to want to have big games in this building,” dropped Gorges while also taking a look at the other side of the coin.
“We want to feed off that energy too, but we want to do it in a controlled way. We want to be energized at home because of the crowd and the fans, but you don’t want to try and put on a show,” continued No. 26, who sits well atop the team with a plus-9 differential. “You don’t want to try and do things to make the crowd ooh and aah, you just want to play the same simple game that makes us successful. Sometimes it’s not that flashy or pretty, but it works.”
Having dealt with a revolving door of injured bodies since the start of the season, any positive news about a player's impending return is always welcome in the Canadiens’ dressing room – especially when that player is Andrei Markov.
“It was great to see Markov back out there. I remember how excited I was to play with him and be on the same team as him the first time I was called up from Hamilton. Just like all the other Habs fans out there, I had been watching him skate for years,” reminisced P.K. Subban of No. 79’s return to practice Monday morning. “He’s a big piece of this team, and I know the other 23 guys here feel the same way.
“It’s not easy making up for his absence. He plays a ton of minutes and brings a lot of skill to this group,” continued Subban on the prospect of eventually having the All-Star blue-liner back in the lineup. “At the same time we can’t be totally dependant on him. We have to work hard together as a team and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve still accomplished a lot together while he’s been out of the lineup. That being said, I think everyone on this team, all the fans and all the people in Montreal know that we always have a better chance of winning when Markov’s on the ice.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.