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Posted On Monday, 02.10.2014 / 10:53 AM

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

Russian defense looking to step up in Sochi

SOCHI -- When Russia announced its roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the configuration of its blue line appeared to be set in stone.

With two sets of teammates named among the eight defensemen on the team, it would be natural to assume that Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin of the Montreal Canadiens and Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin of the Columbus Blue Jackets would be playing together.

Markov and Emelin have played on the same defense pairing for the better part of two seasons in Montreal. Tyutin and Nikitin haven't played together lately, but they have in the past.

When the Russians hit the ice at the Bolshoy Ice Dome for their first practice as a full team Monday, however, neither of the two natural pairings on defense were together.

Posted On Tuesday, 02.04.2014 / 2:02 PM

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

Intriguing returns for Flames' Hartley, Cammalleri

MONTREAL -- There will be two rather different homecomings for the Calgary Flames when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday.

On the one hand is a more traditional homecoming for Flames coach Bob Hartley, whose hometown of Hawkesbury, Ontario is about an hour outside Montreal. He also will face his former assistant coach from his days with the Laval Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.

"It's fun," Hartley said. "I grew up in this area. There are lots of minor hockey friends, lots of school friends. But more importantly we have a big game [Tuesday]. I'm coaching against one of my best buddies, coaching against a former partner of mine. That makes it even more special."

On the other hand there will be a very different kind of homecoming for Flames forward Mike Cammalleri.

Posted On Sunday, 02.02.2014 / 12:46 PM

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

Montoya to start for Jets against Price, Canadiens

MONTREAL – Backup Al Montoya will start in goal for the Winnipeg Jets when they face the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at Bell Centre.

Montoya's only start in the Jets' past 11 games was a 35-save effort in a 3-1 victory on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Carey Price will start in goal for a second straight day for the Canadiens, who will complete their traditional set of matinees on Super Bowl weekend after a 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Michael Bournival missed the game Saturday with a virus but will return against the Jets. George Parros will be scratched for the Canadiens, leaving rookie Christian Thomas to take his spot on the fourth line after playing 8:16 in his Canadiens debut on Saturday.

Posted On Saturday, 02.01.2014 / 12:25 PM

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

Thomas to face off against father in Montreal debut

MONTREAL – Christian Thomas will make his Montreal Canadiens debut on Saturday with a familiar face behind the Tampa Bay Lightning bench.

Steve Thomas, a veteran of 1,235 NHL games, is an assistant coach with the Lightning and will have a great seat to watch his son play his second NHL game.

Christian Thomas made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers at Bell Centre on Feb. 23, 2013, a 3-0 Canadiens victory.

"I've already spoken with my father," Christian Thomas said Friday after Canadiens practice. "I called him [Thursday] when I got called up. He's very excited for me. He wished me the best, and he's hoping that I'll get a shot to play against his team."

Thomas was recalled from Hamilton of the American Hockey League on Thursday, but his spot in the lineup Saturday was not assured until rookie forward Michael Bournival was ruled out with an illness.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.28.2014 / 1:00 PM

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

Therrien continues to shuffle Canadiens' pairs

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien is shuffling his deck on defense again in advance of the game Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Defenseman Douglas Murray will play with rookie Nathan Beaulieu on Montreal's third defensive pair. Beaulieu will play the right side on the pairing, something he never has done before at any level of hockey.

Beaulieu will be Murray's fourth defense partner this season after Murray spent two games playing with P.K. Subban, and he has registered his three highest ice time totals in his past three games: 19:24 on Jan. 22 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, 18:36 on Jan. 24 against the Detroit Red Wings and 18:51 in a 5-0 loss Saturday to the Washington Capitals.

In 31 games this season Murray has been on the ice for four Canadiens goals and 17 goals for the opposition in 342:36 of ice time at even strength.

"We're trying to find the right combination with our defensemen," Therrien said. "Douglas Murray is a presence out there; he brings the physical asset we are looking for from our defensemen. Nathan is a guy who moves the puck well."

Posted On Saturday, 01.25.2014 / 7:11 PM

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

Capitals' Ovechkin back vs. Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin returned to the lineup Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens after missing two games with a lower-body injury.

Ovechkin missed a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators at home Tuesday and a 2-1 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Prior to being hurt Ovechkin had scored three goals in four games and four in his past six; his return should provide an offensive boost that is sorely needed by a team that has scored six even-strength goals over a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2).

However, coach Adam Oates doesn't want his team looking to Ovechkin to single-handedly solve all of their scoring troubles.

"You can't have it that way," Oates said. "Obviously, the focus will be that he'll come and save- the-day type of thing because he's a scorer, which he is. We know that. But the team has to find other ways to score. …The team has to play like a team first."

Posted On Saturday, 01.25.2014 / 6:06 PM

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

Ovechkin, Grabovski game-time decisions for Capitals

MONTREAL – Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin participated in the team's optional morning skate Saturday and said afterwards he hopes to play against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Capitals coach Adam Oates said if there are no setbacks in terms of the lower-body injury that has kept him out of the past two games, Ovechkin will get to do just that.

"He told me out there he feels really good," Oates said. "We'll see how he feels after his nap, make sure nothing reoccurs, and if he feels good enough we'll play him."

Ovechkin has missed the past two games, a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators at home Tuesday and a 2-1 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Prior to being hurt Ovechkin had scored three goals in four games and four in his past six games, an offensive boost that would be sorely needed for a Capitals team that has scored six even-strength goals during a seven-game winless skid (0-5-2).

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 7:22 PM

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

Desharnais not playing for Canadiens vs. Devils

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais (virus) is not in the lineup Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.

Desharnais is eighth in team scoring with 21 points in 44 games.

His absence forced Canadiens coach Michel Therrien to juggle his forward lines, and to dress seven defensemen with Francis Bouillon was in uniform to take Desharnais’ spot in the lineup.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 2:08 PM

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

Devils looking for offense from top line

MONTREAL -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer is hoping his big forward line starts to play like it when they face the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

The line of Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus is DeBoer's top forward unit, but they haven't been producing at a rate that befits that title.

The three have combined to total one goal and six assists during the past 10 games, and DeBoer said his offensively-challenged club needs more from them if the Devils hope to compete.

"The chances are there. They haven't finished the way we need them to," DeBoer said. "There's no doubt we need those guys to get us a goal a night."

Posted On Saturday, 01.11.2014 / 2:14 PM

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

Blackhawks look to rebound against Canadiens

MONTREAL -- By Chicago Blackhawks' standards, it's considered a slump.

The Blackhawks are in the midst of their worst six-game stretch of the season, arriving in Montreal for the first time since April 5, 2011 with a record of 2-1-3 over that stretch and scoring more than two goals once in their past five games. Their last game, a 3-2 loss against the New York Rangers at home Wednesday, snapped a streak of 10 straight games where the Blackhawks earned at least a point in the standings.

As a result, coach Joel Quenneville will juggle his lines, putting Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger on a line with scoring leader Patrick Kane, who ranks second in NHL scoring but has one assist in his past five games.

"To go the whole season with the line you set out with, it's just not going to happen," Kane said. "You've seen that every year in the past. It's good to switch it up sometimes, play with some new guys, get excited about who you're playing with. Sometimes it's good for the team, too. It sparks the team. I think everyone is happy in here to switch it up a little bit and try something different, especially since we haven't been playing as well of late."

Quenneville says that while the line juggling is a byproduct of the recent slide, it is also an attempt to help Bickell find his game. Since returning from a knee injury Dec. 17, Bickell has one goal, one assist and is a minus-5 in 10 games.

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