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Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 5:42 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Canadiens closing in on home ice for first round

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens can clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as early as Thursday as long as they get a point at home against the New York Islanders.

The Canadiens have a three-point lead in the Atlantic Division standings on their first-round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who play at home against the Philadelphia Flyers. If Montreal ends the night with a four-point lead on Tampa Bay, it will guarantee Game 1 of the series will be played at Bell Centre.

The Canadiens will have to attempt to clinch that privilege Thursday without the services of forward Alex Galchenyuk, who left a 3-2 overtime road loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday in the first period with a lower-body injury. George Parros will take his place in the lineup.

Posted On Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 1:32 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings look to solidify playoff spot vs. Canadiens

MONTREAL -- When the Detroit Red Wings hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 18, the Red Wings' streak of 22 straight appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was in jeopardy.

A few weeks earlier, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock returned from leading Canada to the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and defiantly stated Detroit was not going to let the streak be snapped.

"We got to find a way to get in," he said prior to the resumption of the NHL schedule after the Olympic break. "That's what we're going to do."

On March 18, the Red Wings were three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and had won two of their previous seven games.

Babcock's words looked to be rather hollow.

But the Red Wings defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2, starting a run of seven wins in 10 games (7-2-1) that they ride into a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, where a fifth straight victory would likely cement that playoff streak being extended by another season.

Posted On Tuesday, 04.01.2014 / 1:24 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Canadiens, Lightning set for likely playoff preview

TAMPA -- The winner of the game between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday could clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and until that is done neither team is focused on what is coming in a couple of weeks.

Both teams know that barring an extraordinary turn of events they will be facing each other in the first round of the playoffs, giving their game Tuesday added meaning.

"I'm fairly certain that each team can sit here and say, 'Oh, we're not worried, we're only worried about making the playoffs,' but let's be honest," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Both of these teams know exactly where we sit, how close we are to each other and potentially what can happen and what can happen here in a couple of weeks. So there is a lot on the line.

"I'm certain this will have a different feel that your run-of-the-mill one of 82."

Posted On Thursday, 03.20.2014 / 1:38 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Atkinson in, Umberger scratched for Blue Jackets

MONTREAL -- Forward RJ Umberger will be a healthy scratch for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday.

In his six seasons with the Blue Jackets Umberger has missed five games to injury and never has been a healthy scratch.

Coach Todd Richards said the main motivation was to get speedy left wing Cam Atkinson into the lineup after he was scratched in a 3-1 loss at home to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

But he also added the decision had something to do with Umberger's play.

"He's been OK but I think there's more," Richards said. "I think he can be better."

Posted On Tuesday, 03.18.2014 / 1:32 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stastny returns to Avalanche lineup vs. Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Colorado Avalanche will welcome forward Paul Stastny back into the lineup Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Stastny missed four games with a back injury but was centering the second line with Nathan MacKinnonand Gabriel Landeskog at the morning skate.

"I feel good," Stastny said. "It's been a week now and I've felt better every day. I wouldn't put myself in jeopardy for any reason. I'm feeling good and now it's just a coach's decision."

Roy did not speak to reporters after holding a half-hour press conference Monday to discuss his first game as an NHL coach in Montreal, but an Avalanche spokesman confirmed Stastny will be in the lineup.

Posted On Saturday, 03.15.2014 / 2:31 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Ottawa's Lehner to start for injured Anderson

MONTREAL -- The Ottawa Senators have a long road ahead if they hope to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first step on that journey comes Saturday at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Senators are 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with 16 games to play, and have one win in their past four (1-2-1).

"If we can have a full team effort, it will sort itself out," said Senators goaltender Robin Lehner, who will start in place of the injured Craig Anderson. "We've got to have some desperation. We can't be laid back."

Posted On Wednesday, 03.12.2014 / 1:26 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Canadiens to sit Bourque for Prust vs. Bruins

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien made a questionable lineup call the prior time his team played the Boston Bruins and it worked out well.

He appears to be doing the same thing Wednesday.

When the Canadiens played the Bruins in Boston on Jan. 30, Therrien decided to sit goalie Carey Price and start Peter Budaj. The result was a 4-1 win, with Budaj making 34 saves.

Budaj will start Wednesday against the Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS) because Price has a lower-body injury. Left wing Rene Bourque will be a healthy scratch with the return from injury of Brandon Prust.

Posted On Wednesday, 03.05.2014 / 1:08 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2014 Trade Deadline blog

Canadiens add goalie Dubnyk from Predators

The Montreal Canadiens acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Nashville Predators on Wednesday in exchange for future considerations.

Starter Carey Price aggravated a lower-body injury while helping Canada to the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has not played a game since the NHL schedule resumed last week.

Peter Budaj has performed relatively well in Price's absence, going 2-1-1 with a 2.87 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage in four games.

The Canadiens called up Dustin Tokarski from Hamilton of the American Hockey League to serve as Budaj's backup while Price has been out.

Posted On Saturday, 03.01.2014 / 1:24 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maple Leafs preach attention to detail vs. Canadiens

MONTREAL -- If the Toronto Maple Leafs needed a reminder just how thin the margin is between victory and defeat, they got it in their first game back following the Olympic break.

The Maple Leafs lost 5-4 in overtime on the road against the New York Islanders on Thursday, a game where they allowed three goals off sloppy turnovers, including the overtime winner by Lubomir Visnovsky.

Coach Randy Carlyle could have taken that game and used it as an example of what happens when his team is not focusing on the right things, but he's already had enough of that material this season.

"We've had lots of those lessons," Carlyle said. "The teacher's tired of bringing the same lesson."

Posted On Sunday, 02.23.2014 / 7:04 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Backstrom missing from Sweden lineup

SOCHI -- Sweden was without Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom for the gold medal game against Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Sunday (7 a.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

Backstrom was listed on the lineup sheet but did not come out for pre-game warmups. There was no immediate explanation for Backstrom's absence but multiple media reports cited his the reason for his absence was a migraine.

The Washington Capitals center is tied for the team with four assists in five games. Backstrom also has a plus-3 rating while averaging 18:22 of ice time per game. He had been centering Sweden's top line, between Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins.

Jimmie Ericsson, the only non-NHL player in Sweden's lineup, started the game in Backstrom's spot. He's the brother of Sweden teammate and Jonathan Ericsson and plays for Skelleftea in the Swedish Hockey League.

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