PHILADELPHIA -- The trade bonanza that was supposed to happen at the 2014 NHL Draft never came to pass, and a few of the League’s general managers believe it might have been because they were being pulled in too many directions.
After all, this was the first time the interview period prior to the opening of free agency coincided with the draft.
As part of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, NHL teams were given the ability to speak with impending unrestricted free agents five days before the market opens. However, last year that interview window opened on July 1 because free agency began July 5 due to the NHL lockout pushing back the hockey calendar.
This year, the opening of free agency was moved up to July 1, meaning the interview period opened June 25 and kept general managers busy heading into the draft.
Down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series entering Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on Tuesday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Pacioretty feels he has a lot to make up for.
Whether that's true or it's just something Pacioretty has convinced himself is true, it's probably a good sign for the Canadiens.
Pacioretty did not register a single shot on goal in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 on Sunday, and he is eager to make amends in front of his home fans Tuesday.
"I don't feel good about my game last game, but that's the way it goes. It happens all the time," Pacioretty said after the morning skate. "Good players find a way to overcome a bad game like that, and I've got to do that [Tuesday]."
BROSSARD, Quebec -- Injured Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price skated Tuesday for about half an hour with goalie coach Stephane Waite and head athletic therapist Graham Rynbend, but he is still ruled out to play in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.
It was the second straight day Price skated, but the first time he did so in full equipment.
Price took a few shots from Waite while already in the butterfly position with general manager Marc Bergevin looking on from a box above the ice at the Canadiens practice facility.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was unequivocal after the morning skate that not only will Price not play Game 5 of the series against the Rangers on Tuesday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), he won't play unless Montreal reaches the Stanley Cup Final.
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and have a chance to reach the Final for the first time since 1994 with a victory.
"Our team realizes that when Carey was hurt it meant he would not play in this series," Therrien said. "There's a process that's in place for his return, but it won't be in the coming days. We don't want to be thinking about another series because we have a hell of a big game to play [Tuesday]."
Nothing was confirmed, but neither Bournival nor Bouillon stayed on the ice late following the Canadiens morning skate with the rest of the scratches.
Bouillon is expected to take the place of rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who played one shift in the third period and overtime of Game 3, a 3-2 Canadiens win. Bournival replaces Brandon Prust, who is suspended for two games for his hit on Rangers center Derek Stepan.
Of course, the talk heading into Game 4 had little to do with actual hockey decisions and lineup news, instead being completely dominated by what the two coaches in the series are saying at the podium.
Prust will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final series at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) and Game 5 at Bell Centre on Tuesday. The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.
He said his intention in making the hit was to bring some energy to his team on his first shift of the game, and in trying to focus on hitting Stepan cleanly, he did not realize how late the hit was.
NEW YORK -- The Montreal Canadiens had their reason to be upset, and now the New York Rangers do as well. The animosity in the Eastern Conference Final between these two Original Six teams is now a two-way street.
With the announcement Friday that Rangers center Derek Stepan will be out indefinitely with a broken jaw due to a hit from Canadiens forward Brandon Prust, the feeling that the opposing team took out a top player in the series is being felt by both teams.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price was ruled out of the series prior to Game 2 when he sustained a knee injury after Rangers forward Chris Kreider collided with him in Game 1.
NEW YORK -- The Montreal Canadiens might have won Game 3, but they know they need to play more like they did in Game 2 if they want to tie the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.
The Canadiens, down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, will attempt to do just that in Game 4 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"There is always room for improvement," center Lars Eller said at the team's hotel Friday. "I'd say the good thing is we came out of there with a win, and we have to be a lot better. We have to improve. We have to be better. It almost seems like the roles were reversed from Game 2 to 3, and the Rangers probably had a lot more scoring chances in Game 3 than we had.
"But at the same time, goal 2 and 3 is a good example of us winning battles in front of the net and getting those ugly goals. We had the chances in Game 2, but we didn't win the battles in front of the net, both in front of our net. Yesterday in front of [goaltender Henrik] Lundqvist's net, we were able to win those battles. I think that made the difference [Thursday]."
In light of that, what would appear like an innocuous answer to a question Thursday could in fact be quite revealing about his intentions for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.
Therrien was asked if he planned to make any changes to his lineup following an optional morning skate, and for the first time in a long time he did not refuse to answer.
With the Canadiens taking a day off before preparing to play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Therrien held a conference call with reporters to discuss being down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series heading on the road.
He was asked at one point about forward Max Pacioretty, and Therrien spoke of how he has matured into a young leader who has been given greater responsibility and thrived.
He was asked about forward Alex Galchenyuk, who Therrien praised for his ability to adapt to the pace of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 3-1 loss in Game 2 after missing six weeks with a knee injury.
He was also asked about forward Thomas Vanek, and that's when Therrien suddenly decided he didn't want to discuss individual players.
Canadiens starting goaltender Carey Price was ruled out for the remainder of the series Monday morning by coach Michel Therrien. He did not start the third period of a 7-2 loss in Game 1 on Saturday after he was injured in a collision with New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider at 3:15 of the second period.
BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens were dealt a severe blow in their attempt to reach their first Stanley Cup Final in 21 years.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price will miss the remainder of the Eastern Conference Final with an undisclosed injury, coach Michel Therrien said after the morning skate Monday.
"We need to rally around Carey," Therrien said. "We need to give him a chance to keep playing this season."
Peter Budaj was the first goalie off the ice at the Canadiens' morning skate but Therrien refused to confirm that he will start Game 2 at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.
Price appeared to injure his right knee at 3:15 of the second period in a collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who was knocked slightly off-balance as he rushed in on goal and slammed into Price's right leg. Price remained down for a few moments clutching at his right knee but quickly got up and skated.
Therrien said he did not believe Kreider slammed into Price intentionally.
BOSTON – The Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins will play a ninth Game 7 on Wednesday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The weight of the matchup is not lost on anyone.
From coaches to players to fans, everyone knows this is not just another game, and it's not even just another Game 7.
It's a Canadiens-Bruins Game 7.
"To be able to wear this jersey and represent this organization is something special," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said after the morning skate Wednesday. "To be in this game tonight playing against this team, that's something special. This is the greatest rivalry in sports, and to be a part of that in a Game 7? As a player, you want to be in this game. This is an exciting day."
BOSTON -- They will be 250 miles away, but the Montreal Canadiens will have some extra support when they play Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
There will be 21,273 screaming fans in a sold-out Bell Centre watching the game in the building where they are accustomed to cheering their team on the ice, not on the scoreboard video screen.
The Canadiens did the same thing for the two seventh games they played in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the reaction was just as enthusiastic; the game sold out in less than two hours at $10 a ticket.
"I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I still am," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said. "It's just the passion that comes with the Montreal Canadiens fans. Obviously we care a lot in this room, but they care a lot as well about the logo and the history and everything that comes with it."
One day after Subban said he wants to take the noise and the energy of their home building away from the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), two of his teammates expressed the exact same sentiment.
It was almost as if they planned it.
"If at the end of the night we win, they're probably going to be very quiet and walking home," Canadiens forward Daniel Briere said Tuesday during an optional practice. "That would be the ultimate reward for us. But we have to make that happen. We can't just say it, we have to go out there and make it happen."
BROSSARD, Quebec -- Their current situation looks very familiar to some members of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens will face a must-win elimination game for the first time in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Bruins made no changes to the lineup that won Game 4 in overtime 1-0.
Canadiens forward Brandon Prust returned to the lineup after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch; he was expected to play on the fourth line with Travis Moen and Dale Weise, which had some success late in the regular season before each player was injured.
Pacioretty addressed his lack of production Saturday morning ahead of Game 5 at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). In the best-of-7 series that is tied 2-2, the Canadiens are looking for a lift from Pacioretty, who has one assist in four games, nothing at even strength.
"First four games, I'll give [Chara] the edge. He was the better of the two players," Pacioretty said. "But I can just worry about the future. There's three games left, enough for me to prove myself. This is real gut-check time."
The Canadiens made no changes to the lineup that won 4-2 in Game 3 on Tuesday to give them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Bartkowski took the spot of Andrej Meszaros on defense for his first game action since his penalty in double overtime of Game 1 led to P.K. Subban's game-winning goal. Meszaros had an assist in each of the past two games and played 17:19 in the Bruins' Game 3 loss.
Fraser was officially called up from Providence of the American Hockey League on Thursday morning and took part in the Bruins' morning skate at Bell Centre. He made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut playing on a line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson at the beginning of the game.
BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens are not expected to make any changes to a winning lineup when they face the Boston Bruins for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series on Thursday at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Canadiens lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 and have an opportunity to put the Bruins on the verge of elimination.
Coach Michel Therrien would not confirm anything, but defenseman Francis Bouillon and forward Brandon Prust remained on the ice long after the optional morning skate, suggesting each will be scratched for a second straight game.
"We want to be a team that competes, that's always been our trademark, so we can't deviate from that," Therrien said. "With the depth we have on our team, we have players that are ready to play and that want to play. All season long we weren't afraid to call on our depth."
The best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Canadiens and Bruins is tied 1-1, with Game 3 on Tuesday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Bruins defensemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton said Sunday that the Bruins felt if they shot high on Price with traffic, they could take advantage of his tendency to crouch down in an attempt to look through screens in front of him.
When Therrien was asked about it Monday, he referenced the stories coming out of last season's Stanley Cup Final of the Bruins talking about shooting high to the glove side of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, whose goaltending coach at the time was Stephane Waite.
BROSSARD, Quebec --Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien wouldn't confirm it, but it appears changes could be coming to his lineup for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Price sent a message on Twitter early Monday saying: "If anyone finds two labs running around Candiac they're mine."
TSN Radio 690 also reported the news that Price's Labrador retrievers had escaped in the suburb south of Montreal, and a caller of the station who heard about it found the labs and returned them to Price.
According to the report, the caller got an autographed stick in return.
Bournival was re-inserted into the lineup for Game 2 of the Canadiens' Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins on Saturday in place of veteran forward Travis Moen, who returned to the lineup in Game 1 after missing a month with a concussion.
BOSTON – If the two coaches were representative of the moods of their teams, the Montreal Canadiens would be painted as a much more relaxed bunch than the Boston Bruins ahead of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series that begins Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Bruins coach Claude Julien and Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, two men who go way back to their days coaching in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, each met with the media following their team's morning skate.
"I'm on daddy duty," Pacioretty said Friday. "It gets my mind off hockey."
The two days off Canadiens coach Michel Therrien gave his players came to an end Friday when the team got back on the ice for practice, but Pacioretty appreciated the time to get to know his four-month-old son Lorenzo.
Pacioretty admitted he hasn't truly immersed himself into daddy duty; he has yet to change a diaper.
"I'm embarrassed to say I haven't changed one yet; I help in every other department," he said, somewhat ashamed. "I'll go home today and I'll change one."
MONTREAL -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping their strong play over the final two periods of Game 3 will carry over into Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday (7 pm ET; NHLN-US, CBC, RDS, FS-F).
The Canadiens lead the best-of-7 series 3-0 and are looking to complete the sweep. If the Lightning win, Game 5 will be Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The fact they don't really have a choice but to maintain that high level of play makes it a bit easier for the Lightning to focus on the positives of their 3-2 loss on Sunday.
The main point for Lightning coach Jon Cooper was that the youth on his team experiencing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time walked into an extremely hostile environment at Bell Centre on Sunday and showed no signs of wilting under the pressure.
MONTREAL -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Sami Salo practiced Tuesday morning and could return to the lineup for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens (7 pm ET; NHLN-US, CBC, RDS, FS-F).
Salo missed a 3-2 Lightning loss in Game 3 on Sunday with an upper-body injury, but he was paired with scratched defenseman Keith Aulie at the morning skate, so it's possible Salo is out for Game 4.
Otherwise, neither the Lightning nor the Canadiens are expected to make lineup changes.
The Canadiens held an optional skate Tuesday with 13 skaters and backup goalie Peter Budaj taking part.
MONTREAL --Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was on the ice Tuesday morning and took a few shots as he continues his recovery from an upper-body injury that has sidelined him since April 8.
However, coach Jon Cooper ruled out any possibility of Bishop making a miraculous recovery to start Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, CBC, RDS, FS-F).
"No chance," Cooper said. "But it's encouraging to watch what's happening."
MONTREAL --Tampa Bay Lightning rookie forward Ondrej Palat skated for a second straight day Sunday but remains a game-time decision for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET: NBCSN, CBC, RDS, SUN).
"We have a lot of guys available to play," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "There will be 20 guys come seven o'clock that are going to be ready to play. He might or might not be one of those guys. I hope he's going to be one of those guys."
It is not a goal at all, nor a save, nor a big hit.
The most popular video documentation of that game, based on how viral it went on social media following the game Wednesday night, would have to be Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin celebrating his team's victory.
The move was quickly dubbed the "Marcarena" on Twitter.
Prust missed the final 12 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury and played four of the Canadiens' 23 games since the return from the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but there was no way he would miss the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's a brand new season," Prust said. "Everything's stepped up a notch. I'm not really sure what happens, but something goes in the brain and everybody's just ramped up. It's an all-out war."
Prust's skill set is perhaps most valuable around this time of year when the level of competition gets higher. One player on the Lightning who knows very well what Prust can bring in a playoff series is Ryan Callahan, his former teammate on the New York Rangers.
"He's a great competitor," Callahan said. "I played with him for a couple of years and he's one of those guys that you don't like to play against but you love having on your team. I've got a lot of respect for the way he plays and I'm excited to go up against him."
TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will begin their first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three years without their starting goaltender.
Ben Bishop skated on his own Wednesday but was ruled out for Game 1 of the Lightning's Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m.; CBC, RDS, CNBC).
When asked who his starting goaltender would be, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said simply, "Not Ben Bishop."
Though Cooper wouldn't confirm it, Anders Lindback will get his third start in four games since Bishop was lost to an upper-body injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 8. Lindback was perfect in 54 minutes of relief in that game and overall stopped 77 of 79 shots for a .975 save percentage since Bishop's injury.
When Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin signed center Daniel Briere to a two-year, $8 million free-agent contract in July, one of the first arguments he made in favor of the move was Briere's tremendous history of being a peak performer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Briere is one of the top playoff players ever, his 1.01 points per game average in the postseason ranking him 44th all-time, according to hockey-reference.com. It is a significantly higher number than his average of 0.75 points per game over his 916 career regular-season games.
If Briere knows why this is the case, he's not sharing it.
"I wish I knew," Briere said. "I wish I had a clear explanation other than wanting to be the difference-maker every night. I don't really know how to explain it."
Briere has not been one of coach Michel Therrien's most trusted players, spending time on each of the four forward lines at various points of the season, and currently slated to begin the playoffs on the Canadiens' fourth line with Michael Bournival and Dale Weise. Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning is scheduled for Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS) at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
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.
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.
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."
"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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
SOCHI -- Canada had some inspiring visitors at its pregame skate Friday.
As the team prepared for its semifinal game against the United States at the training rink of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, sitting in the stands were two key players from Canada's women's team that won gold against the U.S. in a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory 12 hours earlier.
Forward Hayley Wickenheiser and starting goaltender Shannon Szabados were there to support the men in their bid to move past the U.S. and reach the gold medal game Sunday.
SOCHI -- Goaltender Carey Price hit the ice for Canada's pregame skate Wednesday to prepare for the quarterfinal matchup with Latvia later that night and took his usual spot in front of his net.
His Montreal Canadiens teammate, defenseman P.K. Subban, immediately skated over, grabbed a pile of pucks and offered to warm up Price prior to the skate, diligently shooting pucks first to his glove hand, then his blocker side.
This is the role Subban has been given for Canada. He is there to practice and keep the players who will participate in the games sharp.
Aside from Canada's second game of the tournament, a 6-0 win against Austria, Subban has not been in uniform for any games.
It's not easy for the reigning Norris Trophy-winner, who plays 25 minutes a night for the Canadiens and leads them in scoring with 39 points in 59 games.
SOCHI -- Martin St. Louis has built a career as a high-energy player, a water bug on the ice who keeps his powerful legs moving at all times to overcome his lack of size with his overwhelming will.
A player like that requires a certain degree of rhythm to play his game.
But even though St. Louis will be in the lineup for Canada when it plays Latvia in a 2014 Sochi Olympics quarterfinal Wednesday (noon ET, MSNBC, CBC), the Tampa Bay Lightning captain will have trouble creating that rhythm he so desperately needs to be effective.
"He's just a good, veteran player," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "The reality is we dress 13 forwards each game. One guy hardly gets on the ice. It's a hard, hard situation for people that play 22 minutes [in the NHL]. That's the way it is. You've got to find a way to help out when you get a chance."
Crosby has had different linemates during Canada's three preliminary-round games here at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and it looks like he will again when Canada plays Latvia in the quarterfinals Wednesday (Noon ET, MSNBC, CBC).
"I think you prepared yourself for that when you got selected to the team," Kunitz said Tuesday after practice. "They're going to try to put the best combinations [for] our team … to win. Wherever they put that, now you want to go on the ice and have your best game."
SOCHI -- Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned for the third period of his team's Group A game against Slovakia on Sunday after missing the final minutes of the second with an apparent leg injury.
Kovalchuk was fighting for a puck with Slovakia forward Richard Panik in the Russian zone when the two fell awkwardly to the ice. Kovalchuk appeared to be in pain as he writhed on the ice for a few moments, but he was able to get up and limp toward the Russian bench under his own power.
Kovalchuk remained on the bench for a few minutes testing the leg and standing on it before leaving for the dressing room.
But when the third period started Kovalchuk was on the ice for the completion of a Russia power play.
This game being Canada's final one before entering the knockout phase of the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the lineup chosen by coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff took on greater importance.
Babcock did acknowledge that reality Saturday when speaking to the media on Canada's day off, but he reminded everyone that it is now up to Price to hold on to the job he's been given.
"We had a plan coming in and we haven't changed our plan," Babcock said after Canada's morning skate Sunday. "I've said this many times; at the Olympic Games you're allowed one [goalie] change."
With an entire nation wondering what Canada's coach will do in terms of his starting goaltender and lineup for the final game of preliminary-round play, Babcock said Saturday he will take all the time he has available to him prior to the showdown with Finland on Sunday (Noon ET; USA, CBC).
"Believe me, these decisions aren't easy," Babcock said. "They're difficult because they're personal, because it's about a player. When you have an interaction with a player, that's personal. But it's not about them. It's about our country and it's about making the right decisions.
Canada coach Mike Babcock said Subban and Duchene will sit out its opening game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics against Norway on Thursday (12 p.m. ET, USA, CBC), but will play Friday against Austria (12 p.m. ET, USA, CBC).
Vlasic quietly has been going about his business becoming one of the NHL's most reliable shut-down defensemen for years, shielded somewhat from fans on the East Coast while he plays late at night with the Sharks.
SOCHI -- One of the players many considered would best be able to exploit the extra space available on the international ice surface was Sweden defenseman Erik Karlsson.
The Ottawa Senators offensive wizard has the smooth skating stride and ice vision that seems tailor made for the extra 15 feet of width on the ice rinks in use for the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But there is one person who doesn't agree with the perception that he will benefit from playing on the big ice: Erik Karlsson.
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.
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.
"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.
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."
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."
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).
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.
"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.
TORONTO – Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman knows his job is not likely to make him many friends. In fact, the tough decisions he and his management were forced to make in forming the team that will compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics could very well wind up making him a few enemies.
"These players are all proud and confident in themselves and all believe they should be there," Yzerman said Tuesday after the 25-man Canadian roster was announced. "I understand that … it's hard. All these players that are left off are disappointed today and probably aren't real thrilled with me."
However, there is one player in particular that falls under that category that Yzerman would like to ensure remains on good terms: his captain with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin St. Louis.
For the second straight Olympics, Yzerman chose not to select St. Louis on the Canadian team. The first time in 2010, Yzerman was not yet the Lightning general manager.
With his teammates winning without him, there's really no rush for Spezza to get back.
Spezza will miss his fourth straight game Saturday when the Senators take on the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre seeking a fourth straight victory.
The Senators play their next game Wednesday on the road against the Colorado Avalanche, so missing this game gives Spezza an additional four days to rest and rehabilitate his injury.
"If we absolutely needed him to play the game we could have had him play the game," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We just felt with four more days before we play in Colorado we should err on the side of caution. For sure the expectation is on Wednesday he'll be 100 percent and stay in the lineup. To play him tonight and have him get re-injured didn't make a whole lot of sense to us."
Spezza took part in his first full practice with the team Friday and said afterwards he felt good, but MacLean said he is not yet fully recovered to play, though he denied the team's success in Spezza's absence had anything to do with the decision to sit him out.
MONTREAL -- The Buffalo Sabres are hoping a game against the NHL's hottest team can help turn around their season.
No NHL team can match the Montreal Canadiens' 8-0-1 record over their past nine games, and the Sabres are hoping to put an end to that hot streak Saturday at Bell Centre.
With a 6-21-2 record through 29 games, the Sabres are on pace for just under 40 points in 82 games, which would be by far the lowest total since the introduction of the shootout in 2005-06. The 2006-07 Philadelphia Flyers had 56 points.
"Well, we're definitely not proud of it, to be honest with you," Sabres captain Steve Ott said. "We're not happy with our record, but our process needs to continue to work. No one has packed it in for the season. We have a lot of hockey games left and we want to continue to make a stand.
"A game like tonight is a perfect instance when you have a hot team that's 8-0-1 in the last little while. There's no better feeling than a team like us coming in and hopefully giving them a good show and maybe sneaking in a win."
MONTREAL -- It has taken two months, but the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins will finally resume their storied rivalry at Bell Centre on Thursday, and it again will be a game when first place in their division will be on the line.
The Canadiens have gone 7-0-1 in their past eight games to close within a point of the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins, with Boston holding two games in hand. A win in regulation time would give the Canadiens the division lead for the first time this season, though it would be tenuous because of the two extra games Montreal has played.
The game Thursday marks the fifth straight between the Canadiens and Bruins when first place in the division was at stake, with each of their four games last season being a meeting at the summit of what was then the Northeast Division.
BROSSARD, Quebec -- The New Jersey Devils have historically been a team known for their ability to slow the play down and shut down the opposition, no matter their offensive strength.
But of late, it is their opponents Monday night, the Montreal Canadiens, who have been the defensive juggernauts.
The Canadiens enter the game Monday at Bell Centre having allowed two goals or fewer in 10 straight games, riding a 7-1-2 record over that span.
"We're focusing on playing solid defensively and taking time and space away. It's the same thing with any team," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Right now we have a healthy lineup and there's a healthy internal competition. I think it's good. But we want to be a team that dictates the game, and this is what we've been doing. The guys, with their work ethic, are doing a good job at it."
"It's never easy to be out of the lineup," Briere said Tuesday. "You kind of feel like you are letting down your teammates, especially when things aren't going well. We had a bit of a bad streak where we lost four games in a row, and you feel a bit like it's your fault because you're out."
Vanek was hurt early in the first period of a 5-2 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday after he fell awkwardly in a collision with Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky 23 seconds into his first shift of the game. He will be reevaluated after the team returns to Long Island.
Desharnais has one assist in 15 games this season, and dating back to last season he has one goal and eight assists in his past 32 regular season and Stanley Cup Playoff games.
"It's never easy to make a decision like this," Therrien said. "The principle is to always make it so a player is at his best, but when we don't see results decisions need to be made."
Desharnais, 27, is in the first of a four-year, $14 million contract he signed in March, one he earned with a 60-point season in 2011-12. But last season was a down year for him with 28 points in 48 games, and he is in the midst of the worst slump of his NHL career.
MONTREAL --Dallas Stars rookie Alex Chiasson has had a near historic number of highlights over the course of his short NHL career, but the one to come Tuesday at Bell Centre may top them all.
The Montreal-area native who has begun his NHL career with 11 goals in 18 games will play his first game in his hometown, with more than 50 family and friends expected to attend the game against the Montreal Canadiens.
"When we start the season there are always a couple of dates we circle, and tonight's going to be a memorable night for me," Chiasson said. "When the plane landed last night I was a little nervous. I didn't sleep much last night."
Wingels left the Sharks' 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night in the first period after taking a hit in the corner from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara.
Wingels, who has two goals and four assists in 10 games this season, took part in the skate Saturday with no restrictions and said afterwards he was "feeling good" but that no decision had been made in regards to his status.
"We'll make a decision here once he's reviewed by the doctors and the training staff," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He skated today and he's feeling pretty good, so we're hoping he can play."
Right wing Devante Smith-Pelly appears as though he will make his season debut in the place of Kyle Palmieri, who would be a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Smith-Pelly was called up Tuesday from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, where he had two goals in six games.
Palmieri has one goal and one assist in eight games for the Ducks, but played three shifts in the third period of the Ducks' game Tuesday in Toronto.
Also expected to draw back into the Ducks lineup is defenseman Mark Fistric, in place of Ben Lovejoy. Fistric has been scratched seven straight games, but Lovejoy played a season-low 12:35 Tuesday and was limited to four shifts in the third.
"That's been the history here with [Eberle] through training camp and the early part of the season, that he's been able to make the people around him better," Eakins said. "So he's going to be a key component in helping Nail along the way, and [Nugent-Hopkins] as well. [Nugent-Hopkins] got off to a good start and fell off a little bit, so we're hoping he has continued success as well."
Gaborik's spot in the lineup will be taken by Sean Collins, who will make his season debut.
Gaborik has two goals and four assists in five games this season playing on the Blue Jackets' top line with Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson. Rookie Boone Jenner is expected to take Gaborik's spot on that line.
Collins played five games with the Blue Jackets last season. He is still looking for his first NHL point.
Pacioretty left the Canadiens' 3-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday in the first period with a lower-body injury. He had to be helped off the ice and was unable to put weight on his left leg.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said the team still was awaiting the results of an MRI taken Wednesday night amid rampant speculation in Montreal about the severity of Pacioretty’s injury. When he said the team did not have the results of the MRI as of early Thursday afternoon, a few reporters chuckled.
"What are you laughing at? We don't know yet," Therrien said. "I'm as eager to know as you are. Maybe even a little more eager than you are."
Pacioretty hurt his arm midway through the first period of Montreal's season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he was hit along the boards by Colton Orr. Pacioretty missed the rest of the first period and the first few shifts of the second before coming back to finish the game.
Pacioretty participated in Montreal's practice Friday, but said afterward that he couldn't guarantee he would be able to play in Saturday's game. Coach Michel Therrien said Saturday after the team's morning skate that he considered it "too risky" to put Pacioretty in the lineup.
Pacioretty's absence, coupled with that of George Parros (concussion), ensures that rookie Michael Bournival will make his NHL debut while Ryan White will make his season debut after both sat out Tuesday's game.
The Montreal Canadiens signed free agent defenseman Douglas Murray to fill a big hole on their blue line, but an injury puts him at risk of losing that job to someone else.
The Canadiens announced Monday that Murray would miss four to six weeks with an upper-body injury sustained at practice Sunday. This comes after Murray missed most of training camp and the entire preseason schedule with a lower-body injury.
Center Gabriel Dumont and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu were Montreal's final cuts of training camp and will report to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League. Dumont must clear waivers before reporting.
BROSSARD, Quebec -- It was only the first scrimmage of training camp, but Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien may have given a little sneak preview Thursday as to the line combinations he'll use this season.
Canadiens new acquisition Daniel Briere was at right wing on a line with David Desharnais at center and Max Pacioretty on the left, two players who have spent basically the entirety of their professional careers together. With Briere and Desharnais both standing considerably less than 6 feet, it would be a combination lacking size but oozing with skill.
BROSSARD, Quebec – Tomas Plekanec has always been one to find his summers a little bit too long, particularly since his Montreal Canadiens have not made the Stanley Cup Final once in his eight seasons with the club.
He is a hockey junkie, and is always itching to play.
But this year, Plekanec wanted to spend a little extra time at his home in Kladno, Czech Republic because, for one of the few times in his life, hockey had to take a back seat to something more serious.
With Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask posting a .985 save percentage and two shutouts in their four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference Final, Vokoun's performance wasn't enough to allow the Penguins to reach their goal of the Stanley Cup Final.
"Tomas, I thought, was two goals short of brilliant, two goals short of Tuukka Rask in these two games," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after a 1-0 loss in Game 4 ended Pittsburgh's season. "He was great. Not as many saves as Rask in Game 3, but he was equally up to the task, and he was again tonight. I thought he played outstanding. It was dueling goaltenders there for a lot for Games 3 and 4."
BOSTON -- On most hockey teams, the role of fourth-line center is rarely a source of great debate.
But the way the Boston Bruins are built and the way they play the game makes them unlike most hockey teams.
They are a team built on balance and depth, where the role of top-line scorer is no more or less important than a fourth-line grinder or enforcer.
Many teams say that is the case, but few actually put it in practice the way the Bruins do.
So when Gregory Campbell fractured his right fibula in the second period of Wednesday night's 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, it created a hole far larger than it might have on a typical hockey team losing its fourth-line center.
That hole in the lineup will be filled by Kaspars Daugavins, coach Claude Julien confirmed Friday morning ahead of Game 4 of the conference final at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But filling Campbell's role on the team will be done by committee.
"You don't replace a guy like Gregory Campbell by putting another guy in there," Julien said Friday morning. "He brings a lot. When you lose a guy like him, you realize the hole that he's left.”
BOSTON -- Tyler Seguin was chosen by the Boston Bruins with the second pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. At the time, the belief around the League was he would be a top-line player with strong production on the offensive end.
Just under three years after he was drafted, Seguin finds himself on the Bruins' third line in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, filling a role he probably never envisioned himself playing at this stage of his career.
The Bruins lead the best-of-7 series against the top-seeded Penguins 3-0 with a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final as soon as Friday. That is exactly why Seguin has no problem with how he's being used by Boston coach Claude Julien.
"It's an adjustment," Seguin said Friday. "But I think in the back of your head all you think about is going all the way and doing it for your team. Someone's got to do it. In the playoffs there's always someone doing something that they're not used to, whether it's injuries or whatnot. I'm doing what I can [while] being moved out of my regular position."
BOSTON -- Two days of speculation and debate about who would start in goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday against the Boston Bruins (NBCSN, CBC, RDS) turned out to be for nothing.
Tomas Vokoun started for the Penguins, as he has in every game for the past month.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma generally does not discuss his lineups with the media, but he did confirm beforehand Vokoun would be in goal for a 10th straight game.
"We're looking for a solid game from our goaltender," Bylsma said. "We've gotten that from Tomas in virtually every game he's played, a real solid performance. He's done that for us, and that's what we need [Wednesday] night. We don't need perfection. We're looking for a solid game in between the pipes and for our goaltender to allow our team to win a hockey game."
Forward Jussi Jokinen was scratched and rookie Beau Bennett re-entered the lineup after a three-game absence. It was Bennett’s second game since May 5, when the Penguins played Game 3 of their first-round series against the New York Islanders.
No, not the situation where they find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final heading into Game 3 on the road Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Penguins were in this very predicament in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs just last season, and it didn't turn out very well; they dropped Game 3 in Philadelphia to the Flyers 8-3 before going on to lose the series in six games.
Rather, it is the Eastern Conference Final itself that has been a foreign place for the Penguins since they last won the Stanley Cup in 2009, and their ability to remain in this series will be on the line Wednesday.
Though it is far from ideal, it is a test of character that is somewhat welcomed by the Penguins.
"You don't plan to be in this situation," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said, "but you definitely see what you're made of in these types of scenarios."
PITTSBURGH -- It would be easy for the Boston Bruins to say they have already accomplished what they came to Pittsburgh to do, and that is why coach Claude Julien wants to make sure his players see Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final as an opportunity that should not be squandered.
After an impressive 3-0 win in Game 1, the Bruins have a chance to head back home up 2-0 in the series if they manage to win Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's hard to win games in the playoffs, it gets harder as you move forward," Julien said. "So every time you get a chance you have to make the most of it and don't waste that opportunity by saying at least we won one out of two. You have to go out there every game and challenge and want to win that game, because nothing guarantees you those home wins. And I think Pittsburgh knows that."
The Bruins are hoping they figured something out in the second intermission of Saturday's game that can carry over to Game 2. The Bruins were outshot 22-17 and gave up a number of high quality scoring chances to the Penguins over the first two periods of Game 1, but they largely carried the play in the third period to not only protect a 1-0 lead, but build on it with two goals.
PITTSBURGH -- Defenseman Andrew Ference's presence in the Boston Bruins lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final was akin to a child reaching for a favorite blanket -- it created comfort.
The Bruins' top-four on defense of Zdeno Chara with Dennis Seidenberg and Ference with Johnny Boychuk has remained intact over the last three years, including Boston's Stanley Cup win in 2011. That familiarity is especially important when facing a team with two dangerous top lines like the Pittsburgh Penguins have, and it should serve the Bruins well again in Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's just that we've played together for a while and it's just being comfortable with each other," Boychuk said Monday. "Not that I'm not comfortable with Matt [Bartkowski], because we played well together as well. But we've played together, me and [Ference], for the last three or four playoffs, so we kind of know what to expect from each other."
PITTSBURGH – Prior to the start of the Eastern Conference Final, it was no secret the Boston Bruins held a decided edge over the Pittsburgh Penguins in winning faceoffs.
It just wasn't clear how dramatic that edge would be.
The Bruins as a team won 32 of 48 faceoffs in Game 1 Saturday night, including 22 of 30 at even strength, giving them an opportunity to start with the puck two thirds of the time.
The Penguins have not been a great faceoff team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sitting at 48.2 percent, but the dominance in other areas of their game allowed them to perhaps sweep that weakness under the rug.
Now, facing a series deficit for the first time this postseason, this one wart in Pittsburgh's game is a bit more exposed and it's something the Penguins want to improve on for Game 2 Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
OTTAWA -- When a team faces a 3-1 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the way the Ottawa Senators do in their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first step to overcoming it is a belief it can be done.
As the Senators prepare to embark on that monumental challenge when they play Game 5 at Pittsburgh on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), they do so loaded with players who have that belief firmly lodged in their minds because they’ve done it before.
In the first round of the 2011 American Hockey League playoffs, the Binghamton Senators fell behind 3-1 in a best-of-7 against the Manchester Monarchs. But Binghamton won Game 5 in overtime, Game 6 in double overtime, and Game 7 in overtime to win the series.
The Baby Sens went on to win the Atlantic Division Finals in six games, the Eastern Conference Finals in a sweep, and the Calder Cup final in six games.
There are 12 members of the Senators organization in these Stanley Cup Playoffs who were members of the 2010-11 Binghamton Senators.
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson did not back down Thursday from what he said following his team's 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday, but he did feel his sentiments were taken somewhat out of context.
Following the loss that put the Senators in a 3-1 series hole heading into Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Alfredsson was asked if it was feasible to beat the Penguins three times in a row.
"Probably not," Alfredsson responded. "I mean, with their depth and power play right now, you know, it doesn't look too good.”
Alfredsson later spoke about how the Senators have had a never-quit attitude all season and that maybe they will thrive on the steep odds they were facing in the series, saying "maybe that's the way we like it."
He said Thursday he felt the second part of his comments were overshadowed by the first part, but he stuck to his belief that the Senators have a difficult road ahead.
"There's no denying we're in tough," Alfredsson said. "Was it taken out of context? Probably, but that's fine. I can handle that. We're down 3-1 to a very good team and going back to their building. We're just going to go in there and give them a hell of a game. We've always responded really well when our backs are against the wall and this is no different. The good thing is we're still in the playoffs, it's not over. So we're going to go in there and give them everything we have."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma does not confirm his lineup decisions, but he did at least speak in hypothetical terms Wednesday morning about what Jokinen would bring to his lineup if he dressed.
"Jussi is a guy who's been out of our lineup and you're sitting on a guy who can make plays, score big goals, he's a faceoff guy," Bylsma said. "He's also a guy who would see time on our second power-play unit as well."
OTTAWA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins may be welcoming one of their trade-deadline acquisitions back into the lineup for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Center Jussi Jokinen skated on the fourth line and worked on the second unit of the struggling Penguins power play at practice Tuesday, suggesting he likely will be reinserted into the lineup for the first time since being scratched in Game 5 of the first round against the New York Islanders, a span of four games.
"Especially this time of the year, or anytime you're not playing all the time, it's not easy to watch from the press box," said Jokinen, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on NHL Trade Deadline day April 3. "I'll try to play to my strengths, try to be good on faceoffs, be a good two-way player and do everything I can to help the team win."
OTTAWA - A day had passed, but the pain had not yet completely subsided Monday for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The mental pain of Sunday night's double-overtime loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators was still on the minds of the Penguins after a night of sleep. They were still wondering how they could have possibly allowed the tying goal with just 28.6 seconds remaining on regulation time while they were on a power play.
OTTAWA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins began Sunday with the third-best penalty kill in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 88.9 percent, but will face a brand-new challenge in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Senators will be welcoming back Jason Spezza to the lineup after he missed more than three months recovering from back surgery, and the No. 1 area where he is likely to help Ottawa will be on the power play.
The Senators scored a power-play goal in four of the five regular-season games Spezza played. They scored with the man advantage in 18 of their remaining 43 games, so his introduction to a power play that has scored once in seven chances in the series is a major development.
"He brings a skill dynamic to their power play that isn't there otherwise," said Penguins forward Matt Cooke, one of his team's primary penalty killers. "We have to limit his time and space, but we can't change really much. We just have to stay with our approach and just recognize when he's on the ice."
Vitale did not play in the first four games of Pittsburgh’s first-round victory against the New York Islanders, but coach Dan Bylsma said he has become an important member of his team who will be missed.
"His speed was really evident," Bylsma said. "In those third- and fourth-line situations he brought that speed, he brought that tenacity. He was a difference-maker."
OTTAWA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins may be comfortably ahead 2-0 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Ottawa Senators, but they are fully cognizant of the fact there are some improvements that can still be made for Game 3 on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
“We’re confident, but we’re not confident we’ll win the series,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said Saturday. “That’s a team with a lot of character and we expect they will play their best game.”
After winning Game 1 rather handily by a 4-1 score, the Penguins had a 3-1 lead early in the second period of Game 2 on Friday but allowed the Senators to make it a one-goal game before holding on for a 4-3 win.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily disappointed with anything,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “I think last game we’d like to correct a few big mistakes we made to give them some pretty good opportunities, but other than that I thought we did a pretty good job of having the momentum for most of the game.
“They’re going to be desperate, so we know that this is going to be the toughest game yet.”
OTTAWA -- No team understands the emotional lift the long-awaited return of a star player can provide better than the Pittsburgh Penguins do.
So they are very well prepared for the impact the likely return of Jason Spezza to the Ottawa Senators lineup will have on the complexion of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
With captain Sidney Crosby having made a similar return on several occasions, and Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang doing the same, the Penguins are ready to face a very different Senators team.
"I expect them to be really energized and desperate," Crosby said Saturday. "Adding a player like Jason, he's a big part of their team. He's been around for a long time and he's definitely going to give them a boost."
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators have worked all season long to get to this moment.
For the first time since Jan. 27, eight days into the 2012-13 season, the Senators will in all likelihood ice their full lineup Sunday with the expected return of top center Jason Spezza for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
"I've gone through a full recovery," Spezza said after taking part in the team's optional skate Saturday at Scotiabank Place. "Obviously being off a long time, you're never going to be quite the same right away. But the doctor's say everything's fine and I've put in the work. It's not like I'm expecting to play out of the blue. I've been putting in time here for a while, a lot of skating, a lot of build up towards [playing]. I think I'm ready to go."
With the Senators trailing the best-of-7 series 0-2, Spezza's return from back surgery could not come at a better time. No matter how long it takes him to shake the rust, Spezza should be able to provide a positive impact on the struggling Ottawa power play and provide a good dose of offensive punch to a team that needs it.
"Anytime you can add a player of Jason's ability that's a huge, huge step," coach Paul MacLean said. "He's a No. 1 center, he's an 80-point player, fourth leading scorer in the League last year, he is very good on the power play and he can provide offense from anywhere on the ice. That's something that we don't have on our team right now, consistently."
MONTREAL -- Peter Budaj's first start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will determine whether or not the Montreal Canadiens get to continue their season.
The Canadiens announced Thursday that starting goaltender Carey Price will miss the remainder of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators with a lower-body injury, thrusting Budaj into the spotlight.
At age 30, Budaj will start a playoff game for the first time in his eight-season NHL career with no room for error. His team is down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 5 Thursday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, CNBC), and his goal simply will be to get the Canadiens to a Game 6 in Ottawa on Saturday.
"I believe our players play hard in front of Carey, and I believe it's the same thing in front of Peter," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "I think the guys respect him a lot and they compete in front of him. That goes both ways, Peter is working really hard for his teammates."
The Canadiens defenseman said Wednesday he was eager to play Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS) with Montreal trailing 3-1 and needing a win to extend its season.
"We still have a pulse right now, we're still alive and [Game 5] is the biggest game of the season. We need to be ready to play," Subban said. "Quite frankly, I want to beat these guys. We have another opportunity [Thursday] to play and we can beat these guys. We're better."
The Canadiens certainly will have the odds stacked against them in Game 5.
Captain Brian Gionta and forwards Brandon Prust and Ryan White were ruled out for the game Wednesday, and early Thursday the announced goaltender Carey Price would miss the remainder of the series with a lower-body injury after he was hurt near the end of regulation the team's 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 in Ottawa.
BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta will undergo season-ending surgery Friday to repair a torn left biceps muscle, the team announced Wednesday.
In addition, the Canadiens announced that forwards Ryan White and Brandon Prust each have an upper-body injury and will miss Game 5 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).
Goaltender Carey Price, who sat out overtime in Game 4 on Tuesday, is day-to-day with a lower-body injury and will be re-evaluated Thursday.
Price appeared to sustain his injury in the final seconds of regulation in Game 4. He made 30 saves, but when he reached for a high shot, he fell forward and stayed down for a moment. He was able to skate off under his own power, but when overtime began, Peter Budaj was in net.
This is the second year in a row Gionta has torn his biceps muscle; he underwent surgery Jan 11, 2012 to fix a torn right biceps muscle.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Gionta took the latest injury news very hard.
"When he heard the news," Therrien said, "our captain was crying in my arms."
OTTAWA --P.K. Subban came off the ice late, as he often does, after the Montreal Canadiens held their morning skate Tuesday to prepare for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, CNBC), which Ottawa leads 2-1.
It had been about two hours since it was announced that Subban was one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best all-round defenseman.
The Canadiens dressing room was packed with reporters, all of whom were informed that Subban did not want to address his Norris Trophy nomination because he wanted the focus to be on the team and not on him.
But some tried to get a word with him regardless.
"Sorry," Subban said as he rushed to get his equipment off, "got to get ready for the game, guys."
OTTAWA – The Montreal Canadiens got a surprise visit before traveling to Ottawa for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Senators (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NBCSN) on Sunday night.
Injured center Lars Eller went to the Canadiens suburban practice facility before the team got on the bus for the short ride to Ottawa, and coach Michel Therrien said it did everyone some good to see him.
"It was just nice to see him," Therrien said. "You can tell our guys care about him, he's such a good kid. It's nice that we know, first of all, that he's out of the hospital, and it was nice to see that he was capable to come to the rink."
Eller is recovering from a concussion and facial fractures from a hit he took in Game 1 from Senators defenseman Eric Gryba, who will serve the final game of his two-game suspension levied by the NHL for the hit by sitting out Game 3.
MONTREAL --Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean made a minor tweak to his defense pairings Thursday in advance of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).
Phillips left the final game of the regular season against the Boston Bruins on Sunday with what general manager Bryan Murray later called a tweaked knee. He and Michalek were given the day off from practice Tuesday but were on the ice Wednesday and will be in uniform when the Senators start their series against the Canadiens on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, CNBC).
Diaz has missed 25 games with a concussion; he was a key member of Montreal’s defense prior to the injury, playing 20:36 per game. With Alexei Emelin’s season-ending knee injury throwing the Canadiens defense pairings into a state of flux, Diaz’s return is a welcome boost.
In 19 games this season, Diaz has a goal and 12 assists, with seven of his 13 points coming on the power play, where he could help Montreal’s second unit.
The Capitals will be going with the same lineup that lost 3-1 at Ottawa Senators on Thursday, one still missing Brooks Laich (groin) and Joel Ward (knee contusion). By the time the puck drops, the Capitals will know the result of the game between the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Islanders. The Jets began the day two points behind the Capitals in the race for the Southeast Division.
“We’re all scoreboard watching, obviously, and the game’s earlier than ours so it makes it difficult,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “But our job is to play hockey. The guys are going to go to sleep focusing on the game tonight. No matter the outcome of that game, we’ve got to play our game tonight.”
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens were one of the NHL's best first-period teams through their first 40 games of the season before suddenly and inexplicably getting off to horrendous starts in losing each of their last three games.
They may have a chance to snap out of it at Bell Centre on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that is going through a very similar problem.
Over the first three games of their current four-game road trip that ends here, the Lightning were down 4-0 to the Washington Capitals, 3-0 to the Buffalo Sabres and 3-1 to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, a game Tampa Bay came back to tie before losing 4-3 in overtime.
The rugged forward appeared to hurt his left arm or shoulder when he was driven into the glass in a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, but coach Michel Therrien says he should be back in the lineup in time for Wednesday night's game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.
He said keeping Prust out was a precautionary measure.
Ward and Erat made the trip to Montreal, but coach Adam Oates said each needs more time before returning to the lineup.
"[Ward] is still hurt pretty good from that shot," Oates said. "He came on the trip in case he got better, but he just wasn't feeling good this morning. Marty's just loosening up, but he's not quite ready yet."
Oates said there was no timeline for the return of either player.
Plekanec missed a 4-1 win Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets with a groin injury, but he was back in his usual spot at Canadiens practice between Michael Ryder and Brian Gionta. Coach Michel Therrien said a final decision on Plekanec will be taken following the warm-up.
“One thing is certain,” Therrien said, “if he plays tonight, it’s because he’s able to play.”
Byfuglien, who played forward for most of his time with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2005-10, will at least start the game at right wing Thursday when the Jets look to snap their skid against the Montreal Canadiens.
"He gives us a guy on the right side that can create a little more offense," Noel said. "We've been stuck a little bit on the offensive side of things on the top two lines."
MONTREAL -- Forward Tuomo Ruutu took a couple of spins around the ice before retreating back to the dressing room prior to the Carolina Hurricanes morning skate Monday after injuring his groin in Saturday night's 3-1 win against the Jets in Winnipeg.
There was also some good news on the injury front for the Hurricanes, however, as defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti skated with the team, though he will miss his fourth game with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Justin Faulk will miss his fifth game with a knee injury, but the Hurricanes are hopeful he will return by the end of the week, Muller said.
Finally, goaltender Dan Ellis will be the backup for Justin Peters on Monday after recovering from a leg laceration that cost him the last three games. He should be ready to start Tuesday night in a big divisional game at home against the Washington Capitals.
Coach John Tortorella was still lamenting his team’s effort in a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, citing it as a glaring example of a problem that has plagued the Rangers all season long.
Tortorella said he was happy with the way the Rangers played in a 5-2 victory at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. But his disappointment that it didn’t carry over to Thursday’s game was compounded by the fact the season is racing toward its completion.
“There is time here, but we’re running out of it as far as our consistency,” Tortorella said. “That’s been the tough one for us as a group. We see glimpses but then we take a step backwards.”
For the Canadiens, Ryan White will miss the game with a lower-body injury suffered in a 5-2 win Thursday night against the New York Islanders. He will be replaced on Montreal’s fourth line by Mike Blunden, who was called up from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday.
Rene Bourque, who has missed the past month with a concussion, did not skate with the team for a second straight day after practicing with the Canadiens on Wednesday then making the trip to Long Island on Thursday. He missed an optional practice Friday and was not on the ice Saturday morning.
Defenseman Yannick Weber, who hurt his knee two weeks ago, did skate with the team Saturday morning for the first time since his injury.
Here are the projected lineups for the Sabres and Canadiens on Saturday night:
Kaleta was held out of Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals in what would have been his first game back after serving a five-game suspension for boarding Brad Richards of the New York Rangers. Kaleta voiced his frustration in being held out through the media following the team's morning skate Sunday and was reprimanded for doing so following the game by goaltender Ryan Miller.
Kaleta said he and Miller, former roommates on the road, have cleared the air and there’s nothing to be concerned about.
"We talked about it right off the bat," Kaleta said. "It was a little misunderstanding. Like I said, he's my brother. I have my blood brother at home, you say things, you fight. But he's my family. I've been his roommate for the past three years, we have an awesome bond together. I have his back 100 percent, no matter what happens."
MONTREAL – The Ottawa Senators lost a good deal of toughness over the summer when Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner left as free agents. So players welcomed the news Wednesday that general manager Bryan Murray made a move to help make the team tougher.
Murray acquired Matt Kassian from the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Kassian will join the team in Ottawa on Thursday and will not be in the lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
“We’ve added an element to our team that we feel, as an organization, is very important. It’s something that we thought we lacked as a group and we’ve addressed that,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said Wednesday. “This is an element we felt we were missing on our team with the decisions that were made in free agency in the summertime, with Konopka and Carkner taking advantage of opportunities that were presented to them. We just felt that element is still important to us in the game and we wanted to address it as soon as we could.”
MONTREAL – Neither the New York Rangers nor the Montreal Canadiens will know exactly what their respective lineups will look like for their game at Bell Centre on Saturday night until just before the puck drops.
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was surprisingly absent from the morning skate as he stayed at the team hotel battling the flu. Fellow defenseman Michael Del Zotto was on the ice but left before the skate was completed. Del Zotto did not finish Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators after taking a hard check from Marc Methot midway through the third period.
The defensemen are game-time decisions, according to Rangers coach John Tortorella, who will already be missing top-line left wing Rick Nash and fourth-line checker Arron Asham. The Rangers have called up Christian Thomas from the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League, but his plane had mechanical issues and Tortorella did not confirm he would be in.
On the Canadiens side, former Rangers forward Brandon Prust also is a game-time decision, according to coach Michel Therrien. Prust did not practice with his teammates Friday and did not take part in an optional skate Saturday morning.
The first time Henry and Linda Staal watched their two eldest sons play on the same NHL team, things didn’t go so well for Eric and Jordan Staal’s Carolina Hurricanes.
It went so badly, in fact, Eric Staal all but erased it from his memory.
Henry and Linda Staal will be at Bell Centre to watch their sons take on the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night, and Eric thought it would be their first time watching a game live since Jordan was traded to the Hurricanes by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Draft.
Not so, says Jordan, who pointed out his parents were in the building in Florida on the 2012-13 season’s opening night to watch the Hurricanes play the Panthers.
Subban's status was questionable after he missed Sunday's practice with the flu. Pacioretty did practice Sunday after suffering a rib injury in Saturday's 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, but he wanted to test out Monday morning before confirming he will play against Carolina.
"We knew before the season that teams were going to face these kinds of situations, so it's an opportunity for guys to step in and do a job," Muller said. "We can't make any excuses, we've just got to find ways to win."
MONTREAL – It will be initiation night at Bell Centre on Wednesday as nine players on either side of the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins will be getting their first taste of it.
“If you look at both teams there are some players who will be facing that for the first time,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “All I can say is they’ll figure it out quick enough what’s going to happen here.”
The Panthers called up Drew Shore after placing Kris Versteeg on injured reserve with a groin injury. It is unclear who Shore would replace in the lineup, seeing as the Panthers held an optional skate Tuesday morning following their 4-0 loss in Ottawa a night earlier, and coach Kevin Dineen did not speak to the media after practice. These are the lines the Panthers used in the game against the Senators.
One game after Alex Galchenyuk made his NHL debut in the Habs' opener Saturday, it will be the turn of Brendan Gallagher in Tuesday's game. He will be taking the lineup spot of center Lars Eller, with Galchenyuk sliding to center after playing left wing Saturday. Coach Michel Therrien said he didn’t like Eller's intensity in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs.
Bergevin said on the first day of Canadiens training camp Sunday that he had a face-to-face meeting with Subban and agent Don Meehan and remained hopeful to have the defenseman signed and in camp as soon as possible.
"I went to Toronto yesterday to meet with Donnie and P.K. It was a face-to-face meeting," Bergevin said. "Two things I won't discuss in public are contract negotiations and trades. But the negotiations with P.K. have been respectful on both sides. I have a lot of respect for Donnie Meehan -- he's been doing this for 30 years. We're working on it and we hope to come to an agreement soon."
Subban is coming off his entry-level contract and has expressed his desire to play in Montreal, but said he's also looking for a deal he considers fair. Bergevin suggested the fairness of that contract is where the two parties don't agree.
"The last six months dealing with Donnie, it's been healthy, it's a good discussion," Bergevin said. "Obviously we have different views on this … but all I'll say is our goal is to sign P.K. I believe his goal is to play in Montreal, we just haven't agreed yet."
As teams around the NHL are looking to fill out their rosters over the course of a shortened training camp prior the start of the 2012-13 season, Bergevin quickly shot down a suggestion he may want to trade Subban if the two sides don't agree on a contract soon.
"My goal is to sign P.K. Subban," Bergevin said. "I'm not even thinking of trading P.K. I want him to be a part of the Montreal Canadiens. He's a young defenseman who is developing that we want to have here, and we will do everything possible to come to an agreement."
The Ontario Hockey League select team did not have a third-period letdown this time around, but Russia certainly made it interesting.
The OHL entered the final period with a 1-0 lead for a second straight game in the Subway Super Series in Sarnia, Ontario on Monday night, but instead of allowing Russia to score twice to steal a win like in Game 3, the home team built on its lead to secure a 2-1 win in Game 4.
The OHL's victory tied the Canadian Hockey League Subway Super Series at 2-2, with the final two games against the Western Hockey League slated for Vancouver on Wednesday and Victoria, British Columbia, on Thursday.
New York Islanders prospect Ryan Strome of the Niagara Ice Dogs scored a first-period goal and Vancouver Canucks draft pick Frank Corrado of the Sudbury Wolves provided what turned out to be the winner in the third as the OHL bounced back after losing the league's first Subway Super Series game to Russia on Thursday night in Guelph, Ontario.
The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Russian captain and 2012 top pick Nail Yakupov, who played his two years of major junior hockey with the Sarnia Sting and received a warm welcome from the crowd when he was introduced prior to the game. The Edmonton Oilers prospect risked being on the wrong end of his biggest highlight when he was the victim of a massive, third-period hit by Plymouth Whalers forward Tom Wilson.
St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Binnington of the Owen Sound Attack left the game after 30 shutout minutes and a first-period goal by Ryan Strome remained the difference as the Ontario Hockey League maintained its 1-0 lead against Team Russia through two periods of Game 4 of the Subway Super Series in Sarnia, Ontario.
Binnington only had to make eight saves for his half shutout before giving way to Saginaw Spirit goaltender Jake Paterson, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, at 10:32 of the second period.
“All these players are outstanding, both offensively and defensively,” Binnington told Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds. “They did a great job limiting [Russia] to eight shots.”
Though there were no goals scored in the second period, the game had terrific pace with lots of end to end action and some big hitting. A lot of the physical play was being instigated by Plymouth Whalers forward Tom Wilson, a Washington Capitals prospect who was hitting anything he could find in a red jersey.
Barrie Colts forward Anthony Camara, a Boston Bruins draft pick, had two of the better chances of the period. The first came when he nearly split the Russian defense to go in alone on goal, but 2013 NHL Draft prospect Mikhail Naumenkov dropped his stick as Camara went by, and the loose stick wound up knocking the puck away before Corrado could get a shot off.
Later, Camara was set up with an open net by London Knights forward and Boston Bruins prospect Seth Griffith, but his redirection went just wide with a little less than six minutes to play in the period.
Paterson only needed to make three saves in the OHL net over the second half of the period, while Vasilevskiy has stopped 14 of 15 shots through 40 minutes for the Russians.
New York Islanders prospect Ryan Strome of the Niagara Ice Dogs gave the team representing the Ontario Hockey League a 1-0 lead against Team Russia after the first period of Game 4 of the Canadian Hockey League Subway Super Series in Sarnia, Ontario.
Strome, the OHL's top scorer with 37 points in 21 games, started the play with a long stretch pass out of his own end to the Russian blue line before skating hard to the offensive zone. After Ottawa Senators prospect Matt Puempel corralled a loose puck, he found the streaking Strome alone in the slot for a one-time slap shot that trickled through Russian goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy at 9:47 of the first.
BOISBRIAND, Quebec – Andre Tourigny wanted to see what top draft prospect Nathan MacKinnon could do on the wing in case that’s where the star Halifax Mooseheads center may be needed on the Canadian team that will play at the next World Junior Championships.
After one game, MacKinnon’s switch to the wing can still be described as a work in progress.
MacKinnon played for the first time on left wing for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team that lost Game 1 of the Subway Super Series 6-2 on Monday night on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jean-Sebastien Dea, a line Tourigny was expecting to produce some offense against a powerful Russian team.
Except Huberdeau and MacKinnon finished the game a minus-4 while Dea was a minus-3, a situation Tourigny says can’t continue in Game 2 of the series Wednesday night in Val D’Or.
BOISBRIAND, Quebec – Mikhail Grigorenko knows the 6-2 final score makes it look like his Russian team completely dominated its counterpart from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Monday night, but he doesn’t feel it’s a true reflection of how Game 1 of the Subway Super Series was played.
In fact, the Quebec Remparts center feels the game was played rather evenly in spite of the most lopsided Russian win in this series since 2007.
“We played the way our coach wanted us to play,” the Buffalo Sabres prospect said. “I think for the Quebec guys a lot of them had games yesterday so they were probably a little bit tired. I think the next game will be a lot tougher and it will be more of a challenge.”
Led by a goal and assist from Mikhail Grigorenko, Nail Yakupov, Maxim Shalunov and Valentin Zykov, Team Russia trounced the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League All-Stars 6-2 in Game 1 of the Subway Super Series in front of a disappointed crowd of 3,173 at the Centre Excellence Rousseau on Monday night.
The four-goal margin was the largest in a victory for the Russian select team since a 5-1 win against the Western Hockey League All-Stars in 2007, a span of 25 games. It also marked the fifth straight win for Team Russia against the QMJHL in the history of the series.
The star for the Russian squad was goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy, who was named player of the game for Team Russia. He made an incredible glove save off Jean-Sebastien Dea in the dying seconds of the first period and made a number of other spectacular saves among his 28 on the night.
Team QMJHL outshot Russia 11-6 in the second period and 23-15 after 40 minutes, but Vasilevskiy has made a number of highlight-worthy saves to frustrate the Quebec league players time and again.
Buffalo Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko assisted on Naumenkov’s goal at 17:35 of the second period to give him a goal and an assist in the contest, and he’s created a number of scoring chances in a standout performance through two periods.
BOISBRIAND, Quebec – Team Russia’s two biggest stars took advantage of a pair of turnovers by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to give the visitors a 2-0 lead after one period of Game 1 of the Subway Super Series.
The Quebec Remparts’ Mikhail Grigorenko, a Buffalo Sabres prospect taken 12th at the 2012 NHL Draft, beat Blainville-Boisbriand Armada goaltender Etienne Marcoux at 9:49 of the first period off a 2-on-1 break created by a turnover by Halifax Mooseheads star Nathan MacKinnon.
Just over a minute later, Edmonton Oilers prospect Nail Yakupov – the top pick in the 2012 draft – picked off an errant clearing attempt in the QMJHL zone and his low slap shot from the high slot beat Marcoux to the far side just inside the post at 11:03 of the period.
BOISBRIAND, Quebec – Here are the expected line combinations for the team representing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Team Russia in Game 1 of the Subway Super Series at the Centre Excellence Sports Rousseau.
The player’s NHL affiliation is in brackets, or if he is undrafted his draft year is in brackets.
Montreal's La Presse newspaper reported Monday that the Canadiens are not only out of the running to sign free agent forward Jaromir Jagr, but they haven't even spoken to him since free agency opened Sunday at noon.
Jagr's agent Petr Svoboda tells La Presse that several teams are interested in retaining Jagr's services, but he unequivocally shot down the rumors that one of them was the Canadiens.
"There is nothing going on between us and the Canadiens," Svoboda told the newspaper.
According to Marc-Antoine Godin of Montreal's La Presse, the Canadiens plan to make a contract offer to Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner when free agency opens at noon.
Penner managed just 17 points in 65 regular season games, but had a resurgence in the playoffs with 11 points in 20 games and was a key cog in the Kings Stanley Cup run.
The Canadiens have a serious need for size among their forward group, and Penner would definitely provide that with his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame. But his game has been wrought with inconsistency over the years, and the question remains whether or not the player we saw in the playoffs is the real Dustin Penner.
PITTSBURGH -- As recently as a week ago, Mark Jankowski was struggling to figure out what he should do.
But when he was taken the Calgary Flames with the 21st pick at the NHL Draft on Friday night, the tall center from Stanstead College in Quebec knew he’d made the right call to skip his high school graduation ceremony and attend the first round of the draft
"I think I made the right decision," a beaming Jankowski said while wearing a Flames jersey. "I only made my decision about a week ago, and right up until that day I was flip flopping every day."
TORONTO -- While NHL scouts, general managers and strength coaches are focused on the physical attributes of the prospects taking part in the fitness testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine, at times there are other traits that come shining through during the exercise.
Ottawa Senators director of player personnel Pierre Dorion shared one such instance of that occurring, and it involves a player that now has become part of the NHL's elite.
In 2006, Dorion and current Senators assistant GM Tim Murray were working for the New York Rangers when they were eyeing a slender forward prospect preparing for the bench press test.
"I think it’s a good draft class,” Dorion told NHL.com on Wednesday at the NHL Scouting Combine. “At the top, like every draft, there are some good players. I think sometimes because there’s a better quality of defensemen than forwards, people tend to say that it’s not as good of a draft class because you don’t see the offensive production.”
Indeed, eight of the top 12 North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking are defensemen, while nine of the top 18 European skaters play on the blue line.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens facing each other on the final day of the season has become somewhat of a tradition, with the game Saturday between the Original Six rivals marking the fifth time in six years they have finished the season against each other.
But for this matchup to be this insignificant is something that is relatively new.
The Canadiens enter the game with no chance of climbing out of the Eastern Conference cellar, but a regulation loss coupled with an Edmonton Oilers win would mean the Habs finish 29th in the League standings instead of 28th - a drop that would represent a 4.6 percent boost in Montreal's chances of landing the top pick in June's NHL Draft, from 14.2 to 18.8 per cent.
The Maple Leafs, however, could potentially jump up from 26th to 24th overall with a victory and losses of any kind by Anaheim and Minnesota. That kind of a move would drop Toronto's chances of winning the lottery from 8.1 to 4.7 percent. On the other hand, a Toronto regulation loss and a New York Islanders win would drop the Leafs to 27th overall, improving their odds in the draft lottery to 10.7 percent.
But don't tell that to Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who represented the opinions of both dressing rooms very well in response to a question regarding draft position.
"That's for other people to talk about, that's not for coaches," Carlyle said. "We've stated before and we'll continue to live by those statements that if we ever sold to our players that we're coming here to tank a hockey game and give up the two points, the credibility of your program has gone out the window. That's not what we're about, that's not the fabric we're made of and we don't want our players to ever think that's a possibility for us."
Here are the potential lineups for both teams Saturday night:
MONTREAL -- The Florida Panthers understand they are in the driver's seat, but they can't help themselves from looking in the rearview mirror from time to time.
While the Panthers prepare to face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre tonight riding a 5-1-3 stretch in their last nine games, they are acutely aware of just how hot the Washington Capitals have become and how precarious their own hold on the Southeast Division lead is entering the final stretch of the season.
"It's hard not to (notice)," veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski said of the Capitals' 6-2-2 surge. "We know (Alex) Ovechkin's going crazy right now. But we can control what we can control. We have a three-point lead on them, we're not the ones chasing. So we control what happens to us."
The Panthers have not played significant games this late in the season in years, but securing the franchise's first playoff berth since 2000 is not yet in the bag. The Panthers have a three-point lead on the Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres -- who face each other in Washington tonight -- with a game in hand on both teams.
Still, there's a definite sense of anticipation brewing among the players, coaches and the fans of South Florida.
"Well, seven games (left in the regular season) equals a playoff series, so we still have work to do," coach Kevin Dineen said. "But now that we're in the final stretch, it's exciting. … It's an exciting time to be a Florida Panthers player and fan right now."
A big reason for the Panthers' solid play of late has been goaltender Jose Theodore, who arrives in his hometown riding a 4-1-3 stretch with a .947 save percentage over that span.
"I'd say he's been our team MVP at this juncture," said veteran center John Madden. "We have this belt we give out (for the player of the game), and we can't go three games without him winning it."
However, as great as Theodore's been, he has a poor history against his former team with a 2-2-1 record, 4.62 goals-against average and .861 save percentage in six career games against the Canadiens.
"His record against his previous team, for a guy with his experience, is probably one of the smaller factors," said Dineen, who would not confirm the starting goaltender for the game.
Backup Scott Clemmensen, who left the ice first at the morning skate, is 5-0-0 with a 1.65 GAA and .942 save percentage against the Canadiens in six career starts. It would be surprising if he didn't get the call for this one.
On the Canadiens' side, there is very little to play for other than being spoilers for playoff clubs and auditioning for jobs next season, as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Saturday night's 4-1 loss in Philadelphia.
The Islanders (28-32-11) enter the game in 15th place in the conference, one point behind the Canadiens (28-32-12), who have played one more game.
Montreal is on a bit of a hot streak of late with a 3-0-2 record in its last five games after a 2-1 overtime loss Friday night in Ottawa. The Islanders, on the other hand, have been in free fall with a 0-3-2 record in their last five games and just two wins in their past 10.
The Canadiens did not skate Saturday morning, so it is unknown if defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Andrei Markov will be able to play after both missed Friday night with upper-body injuries. Kaberle had missed Montreal’s previous game to attend the birth of his son, while coach Randy Cunneyworth had expressed reservations about playing Markov on back-to-back nights so soon after his long-awaited return from knee surgery before he was declared out in Ottawa.
The Ottawa Senators have a chance to accomplish something Wednesday few people outside the team itself thought possible coming into training camp -- they can grab a share of the Northeast Division lead in March.
While technically the Senators would still be second to the Boston Bruins if they manage to beat the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre, Ottawa would be level on points with a victory.
"Obviously it would be a nice thing to accomplish and we really want to win this game," said Erik Karlsson, the runaway points leader among NHL defensemen who has 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games. "It's not only to catch Boston, but just to keep winning games."
Ottawa's pace has slowed somewhat since losing goaltender Craig Anderson to a cut on his hand, going 4-3-1 in his absence. While Anderson has gotten back on the ice a couple of times, coach Paul MacLean says there is still no timetable for his return.
Still, the fact that the stretch is considered a dip speaks volumes about the performance of a team many picked to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, which is where their opponents Wednesday currently sit.
"We were in their exact position last year," Karlsson said of the Canadiens. "So we know how it feels and we know how we felt. We didn't want to lose any games."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson said the environment created by MacLean from day one was markedly different from last season under Cory Clouston. A heavy emphasis on skating and conditioning in training camp quickly carried over into the regular season, where the team understood how hard it needed to work in order to play MacLean's system.
"We're skating better than we have the last three or four years," Alfredsson said. "(MacLean) has done a great job of making guys accountable, but doing it in a way that's fun, too."
When told the change in atmosphere in the Senators dressing room is striking from last year, Alfredsson quipped, "Ya think?"
But he also conceded that the lack of expectations allowed this Senators team to find its identity without added pressure, something Alfredsson has experienced before on some of the powerhouse Ottawa teams he's played for over his brilliant career.
"It's a lot easier to live up to no expectations than big expectations," he said. "We just took the attitude that we'll prove everyone wrong."
It's safe to say the Senators have already done that, and should they be able to climb into a tie with Boston tonight it would only be another big accomplishment.
Kaberle's wife Julia was expecting the couple's first child Wednesday and he's been excused from playing as a result. It will be the sixth member of the Canadiens to have a baby during this season after Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri (since traded to the Flames), Hal Gill (traded to Nashville), Travis Moen and Alexei Emelin.
Defenseman Frederic St-Denis was called up from Hamilton and is expected to dress against Ottawa.
Gomez is out with what is widely believed to be a concussion after he was hit from behind Monday by Buffalo's Tyler Myers -- a hit that earned the Sabres defenseman a three-game suspension. Coach Randy Cunneyworth would only concede that Gomez is out with an upper-body injury.
Markov has not played since Nov. 13, 2010, and he has played just seven games since the start of the 2010-11 season after suffering consecutive tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Markov will participate in the warm-up skate with his teammates prior to the game and a decision on whether he will dress or not will be made afterwards.
With the playoffs highly unlikely -- and everyone on the team seemingly resigned to that fact -- things like halting a five-game losing streak or improving their League-worst .333 winning percentage on home ice (11-14-8) are what the Canadiens players are focusing on for motivation.
"You play for pride and the logo on the front of your jersey," center Lars Eller said. "That means a lot. So you have to keep that in mind."
Someone who will be feeling a great sense of pride tonight is newcomer Blake Geoffrion, who will play his second game in a Canadiens uniform, but his first at home.
Geoffrion is wearing No. 57 to honor two members of his family who are legends in the Canadiens organization -- his grandfather, Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion (No. 5) and his great-grandfather, Howie Morenz (No. 7).
Another new Canadiens addition has a bit of extra motivation as well, as Brad Staubitz will face the team that placed him on waivers on Feb. 27.
"I really hope I can get my first goal of the year," Staubitz said with a smile.
He last scored a goal April 10, 2011, a span of 44 games. Although he'd probably settle for an assist -- his last point of any kind came on that goal. Better known for physical play, his 90 penalty minutes are the most on the Canadiens.
His former Wild teammates expressed regret that Staubitz was no longer with them, but they have little doubt that should he be called upon to fill play that extra-physical role Thursday, there will be no hesitation.
"I know what a great pro he is, so he's going to go out and play his game and do his job," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We expect him to play a very hard game, but having said that I'm sure he'd rather have that role and that responsibility against a team he's not as close with."
Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth would not tip his hand as to who will be in his lineup for the game, though he did suggest he would go with seven defensemen once again.
Palmieri was identified by Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher as the key piece that came back from the New Jersey Devils in the trade for defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and as soon as Palmieri arrived he could see why.
"I've been very impressed so far," Yeo said of Palmieri. "The first day you see him he looks like an NHL player. He's got the size, the strength, the way he passes and shoots the puck. Every game that he's played for us -- he's played two now -- he's generated some quality scoring chances. We kind of eased him in, but he's earned himself some more opportunity on that top line and he's a guy we'd like to see on the power play, as well."
Palmieri, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-wing who's just 22 years old, readily admits he was starting to find his role difficult to take in New Jersey. After playing at least 10 minutes in all but one of his first 18 games with the Devils, Palmieri did not reach that mark once in his final 11 games, dating to Nov. 23, a span that included three return trips to the AHL.
"They had their lines pretty much set there, so there wasn't much room for me," said Palmieri. "But that's the way it goes. I'm just excited to play more minutes, no matter who I'm playing with."
Palmieri was getting decent minutes earlier in the season, but the production was slow to come in his second NHL season. Next thing he knew, he was a fourth-line player.
"I kind of got behind the eight-ball early in the year and started to feel the pressure," he said. "When they move you to the fourth line you kind of start to play more passive. You play to not make mistakes instead of trying to make a play."
He certainly will get that opportunity Thursday.
One player who won't, however, is Erik Christensen, who will be a healthy scratch for the first time since he was acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 3. Christensen does not have a point in 12 games with Minnesota, and he is a minus-5 in his last three games.
"It's one thing to not be getting goals and to not be getting assists, but if the puck is going in (our) net when you're on the ice, then it doesn't add up," Yeo said. "Some guys can go out and they might not score a goal but they can still be effective, they can still bring momentum or they can still be solid defensively. That's what we have to make sure of with Erik is the next time you're in the lineup, you might score or you might not, but just make sure you play a good game."
Here's how the Wild are expected to look like tonight:
The Dallas Stars center will play his first regular-season game in his hometown since he was traded away in 2006 by the Montreal Canadiens, and he can't wait.
"I'm excited to see the atmosphere in the building again," Ribeiro said Tuesday morning. "Maybe they forgot me, it's been so long."
Ribeiro was injured the only other time the Stars played at Bell Centre since he was traded for defenseman Janne Niinimaa on Sept. 30, 2006, though he did play in a preseason game here in September.
"It's been six years," said Ribeiro, who turned 32 on Feb. 10. "If I look back on my career there are some things I'd like to do over again, and I think everyone in their lives can look back at things they'd like to improve. But I'm looking to the future, and what's in the past is in the past."
Ribeiro thrived almost immediately upon his arrival in Dallas, while Niinimaa played just 41 games in a Canadiens uniform. The deal widely is panned by Canadiens fans as one of team's the worst in recent years.
"I'm sure they know they made a mistake, but who would have said I would play this way?" Ribeiro said. "I'm coming back to Montreal in front of my friends and people I grew up with, so I'll try to play well and I'll try to score tonight."
He feels the constant pressure the Canadiens are under from their fans and the media to produce a winner led to him being traded, and it affects the franchise's ability to wait for their young players to reach their full potential.
"You have to be patient with the young guys, because you get better as you grow and as you learn the game," he said. "A lot of times in Montreal you have to win now and a lot of times kids are not ready to win now, so you get impatient and trade them -- like in my situation -- a little too quickly."
Ribeiro is far from the only former Canadiens player in town with the Stars. He’s joined by his linemate, right wing Michael Ryder, and defensemen Stephane Robidas and Sheldon Souray, who was disappointed he won't be able to suit up as he recovers from a foot injury.
The game also will be special for first-year Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, who grew up a Canadiens fan in Hudson Bay, Sask., and wore the No. 23 jersey of Bob Gainey to school as a kid.
The game is so special he insisted his father, Gene, make the trip to Montreal to attend.
"I've had a few pinchable moments, and this was certainly one of them when we played our exhibition game here," Gulutzan said. "It's not the typical exhibition game with 20-some thousand people in the stands. It's special to come back to Canada, but in Montreal it's a little extra special. It's a little surreal at times."
While players always get up for games against their former teams, Gulutzan feels the Canadiens have a home-ice disadvantage because it's pretty difficult for any player not to get excited to play a game in Montreal.
"You get amped up to play here because it's exciting," Gulutzan said. "It's the talk of the town and the players feel that vibe. I'm sure it's not easy for the home team here because other teams are gunned up and ready."
That certainly will be the case for Gulutzan's top center.
Eriksson was flying to Montreal from Dallas on Tuesday to re-join the team after his wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter on Monday morning, just as the team's flight here was leaving.
As for Benn, he took the ice briefly after his teammates were finished with the morning skate, but the cut on his left leg is not healed enough for him to return.
"It's the equivalent of getting stabbed in the leg," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He wants to play (Thursday) in Chicago. He's getting better every day, so that's the encouraging part."
Another Dallas player looking to make a return Thursday is defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has been out since Feb. 9 with a foot injury.
Souray took a regular turn with the Stars at their morning skate, but it was just his second time practicing with the team and his conditioning is not where it needs to be to face the Canadiens.
"I was pushing for this game," Souray, who spent six seasons with the Canadiens, said.
For the Canadiens, rookie forward Louis Leblanc will return to the lineup after missing the last game with the flu, while Erik Cole will be available even though he sat out Monday's practice with a leg injury.
The goaltending matchup is Kari Lehtonen for the Stars against Montreal's Carey Price, who will start his ninth game in a row.
MONTREAL -- After three seasons of missing the playoffs as head coach of the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils bench boss Peter DeBoer is likely sincere when he says his club's incredible run since the All-Star break has not necessarily allowed him to sleep much better at night.
"I'm never comfortable this time of year. You're a bad weekend away from being in a dogfight for eighth," DeBoer said Sunday morning. "You're never comfortable until you're in."
In that case, the Devils opponents Sunday evening are not the least bit comfortable, seeing as the Montreal Canadiens sit six points out of the final playoff spot, with four teams to leapfrog in order to get there.
The Habs have put together a 5-1-1 stretch to remain on the periphery of the playoff hunt, and DeBoer is cognizant of the effect the trade of defenseman Hal Gill to the Nashville Predators on Friday can have on a team's attitude.
"We're going to see a desperate team," DeBoer said. "I think they've been playing well, I've watched the last few games on tape. They always give us a hard time, they have a lot of speed, a lot of skill. You never know how a team's going to react once you begin making trades or selling off guys. I've been on that end of that, and a lot of times you get a positive reaction because other guys are getting an opportunity. So we have to be prepared for that."
Brodeur has a 6-0-1 record with a .936 save percentage and 1.82 goals against average since the break, while Kovalchuk has 17 points, Parise has 10 points and Elias has 8 points in those nine games.
"We came out of the All-Star break and realized as a group that we had to find another level. It started with our best players. Marty Brodeur's come back and been outstanding, Kovalchuk, Parise, Elias, all those guys have found another level that we knew they had. It's translated into wins," DeBoer said. "Those guys realized that we needed a push here in order to get in. We went into the All-Star break sitting tied for eighth with a tough stretch of games coming out of it. We knew that the rubber was kind of hitting the road, so to speak, and we needed to find another level. Those guys have done that."
The Devils have done this largely without rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who has been out with a bruised back since taking a big hit from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and slamming hard into the boards in New Jersey on Feb. 2. In addition to that, Henrik Tallinder has been out since Jan. 17 with a leg injury, and it appears another defenseman will also be missing Sunday as Kurtis Foster will likely be replaced by minor league call-up Peter Harrold.
In light of this, DeBoer says Brodeur's play of late has been more vital than ever.
"We need him to be our best player on a lot of nights, especially with some of the injuries on defense we've been dealing with," he said. "He's been great."
Brodeur will be playing his final game of the season in his hometown, where he has a career record of 18-8-1 with a 1.55 GAA, .944 save percentage and five shutouts.
Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens, who did not skate Sunday morning.
Here are the expected lineups for Sunday night's game.
But he says he might just do that if his situation does not change soon.
"Not yet," Kostitsyn said Wednesday when asked if he's requested a trade. "But we'll see in the next couple of games."
Kostitsyn just turned 27 on Feb. 3 and is playing out a contract that pays him $3.25 million. He scored 26 goals in his first full NHL season in 2007-08 but has never been able to match that total, though he topped the 20-goal mark in two of his previous three seasons.
He also brings a physical dimension to the game, topping 100 hits in each of the past four seasons and leading the Canadiens with 140 last season.
This season Kostitsyn has 12 goals and 12 assists in 47 games but he has hit a major dry spell with just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last eight games. Over his last four games, Kostitsyn's ice time has gone from 14:30 to 12:08 to 11:15 and finally to 4:20 on Monday.
"It's tough when you sit on the bench, you just (watch) the game. … You're freezing on the bench," Kostitsyn said. "I can't do anything in four minutes. If he gives me more ice time, I can show how I can play."
"He" is Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth, who explained the reason Kostitsyn was benched Monday night was because he committed turnovers on three consecutive shifts.
"The coach is probably thinking I'm the one guy on the team that (commits) turnovers or loses the puck," Kostitsyn said. "That's why maybe he put me on the bench."
Cunneyworth said he wants Kostitsyn and his center Scott Gomez to "play the right way" if they want to earn more ice time.
"I understand what he wants," Kostitsyn said. "He wants us to chip the puck and put the puck behind the defensemen and play in their zone. I tried to do that last game, but I still stayed on the bench. Nothing different."
Cunneyworth would not confirm whether Kostitsyn or Gomez would suit up for Wednesday night's game against the Boston Bruins.
But he says he might just do that if his situation does not change soon.
"Not yet," Kostitsyn said Wednesday when asked if he's requested a trade. "But we'll see in the next couple of games."
Kostitsyn just turned 27 on Feb. 3 and is playing out a contract that pays him $3.25 million. He scored 26 goals in his first full NHL season in 2007-08 but has never been able to match that total, though he topped the 20-goal mark in two of his previous three seasons.
He also brings a physical dimension to the game, topping 100 hits in each of the past four seasons and leading the Canadiens with 140 last season.
This season Kostitsyn has 12 goals and 12 assists in 47 games but he has hit a major dry spell with just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last eight games. Over his last four games, Kostitsyn's ice time has gone from 14:30 to 12:08 to 11:15 and finally to 4:20 on Monday.
"It's tough when you sit on the bench, you just (watch) the game. … You're freezing on the bench," Kostitsyn said. "I can't do anything in four minutes. If he gives me more ice time, I can show how I can play."
"He" is Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth, who explained the reason Kostitsyn was benched Monday night was because he committed turnovers on three consecutive shifts.
"The coach is probably thinking I'm the one guy on the team that (commits) turnovers or loses the puck," Kostitsyn said. "That's why maybe he put me on the bench."
Cunneyworth said he wants Kostitsyn and his center Scott Gomez to "play the right way" if they want to earn more ice time.
"I understand what he wants," Kostitsyn said. "He wants us to chip the puck and put the puck behind the defensemen and play in their zone. I tried to do that last game, but I still stayed on the bench. Nothing different."
Cunneyworth would not confirm whether Kostitsyn or Gomez would suit up for Wednesday night's game against the Boston Bruins.
BROSSARD, Que. -- Losing Wednesday's game could put the Canadiens' playoff hopes to bed for good, and with the trade deadline looming Feb. 27 Montreal General Manager Pierre Gauthier may be inclined to declare himself a seller.
Among the potential assets Gauthier could move by the deadline, the names of Gill and injured forward Travis Moen have come up often because they both have Stanley Cup rings and both can be unrestricted free agents July 1.
"We need more," Cunneyworth said of his decision to bench Kostitsyn. "For me, I saw a problem with turnovers. That was my main concern. It was three shifts, three turnovers that were painfully obvious. It comes down to managing the puck, and he's a veteran that should know better."
Kostitsyn, who turned 27 on Feb. 3, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. With 20 goals in three of the four previous season and decent size at 6-foot, 214 pounds, it's possible someone with his skill set could interest a playoff-bound team looking for someone to plug into their top six.
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens' season to date has been one rife with frustration, and there was further evidence of that at practice Tuesday.
One day after blowing yet another third period lead in a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, center Scott Gomez and Canadiens assistant coach Randy Ladouceur engaged in a very vocal and animated exchange over a drill that was not completed to the coach's liking.
The back and forth between the two continued for several minutes while the team was gathered along the boards to receive instructions on the next drill, and Gomez sought out Ladouceur later in practice to continue the discussion.
For a team that may have seen its dimming playoff hopes shut off for good with the loss to the Hurricanes, which left them 11th in the Eastern Conference seven points behind the eighth-place Maple Leafs, the shouting match appeared to reflect how many players on the team were feeling.
"It happens all the time. I screwed up on the drill. It just shows you how the fire's still there in all of us," Gomez said. "I screwed up on the drill and he let me know about it. It's not the first time, it's not the last time. It's a part of hockey. It happens all the time, and it just shows how crucial it is right now."
Though there clearly was some back and forth going on between the two, Gomez suggested he was doing more listening than talking.
"I wasn't going back, I was listening to him," Gomez said. "He's the coach. It was a conversation, there was no argument. It's a coach yelling at a player for messing up a drill. We're all in a position where we realize where we're at and your attitude's going to change a little bit, you're a little more on edge. I wish I could tell you there was more, but it was nothing."
It was not the first time Ladouceur has had a public discipline session with a player. Cameras caught him doing the same thing with defenseman P.K. Subban on the bench during a game in Pittsburgh on Jan. 20 after a turnover cost the Canadiens a shorthanded goal.
But this time it took place in front of the entire team, and the message sent was noticed by other players.
"It's the whole team," said veteran defenseman Hal Gill. "You're isolating it to one instance on the ice, but it's the whole team. The way things are going, everyone's got to be sharp. It's not one guy that wins games or one guy that loses games. We have to be sharper as a team."
Gomez played just 7:49 against Carolina, the lowest ice time he's had this season since he played just 2:40 Oct. 20 against Pittsburgh due to an upper-body injury.
Head coach Randy Cunneyworth said he fully supported Ladouceur's tone with Gomez, and refused to confirm Gomez would even play Wednesday at home against the Boston Bruins.
"We'll look at it; we'll look at everything at this time," Cunneyworth said when asked directly whether or not Gomez would play. "We're looking for the lineup that will play the right way and battle hard against a very good Boston Bruins team. That's all we’re looking for -- 20 guys that will do that."
The only lineup decision Cunneyworth would confirm for Wednesday's game was that Ryan White -- a hard-nosed, scrappy forward that fits perfectly into the style of game Cunneyworth is trying to sell -- will make his season debut after fully recovering from sports-hernia surgery.
White's insertion into the lineup means one forward who played Monday most likely will need to come out against Boston, and there's nothing saying it won't be Gomez or linemate Andrei Kostitsyn, who played just 4:20 Monday against the Hurricanes.
"We can't have one passenger, no matter who it is. There's a lot at stake here," Cunneyworth said. "If we don't play the right way, whether it's a top club or not, you're not going to achieve the goals you want. We have to have a great effort from everybody against a team like Boston, otherwise they'll embarrass you."
MONTREAL -- The Carolina Hurricanes will look to prevent the Montreal Canadiens from establishing a new season high with a fifth straight win when the two clubs meet tonight at Bell Centre.
The game marks the return of Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to Montreal, while Canadiens defenseman Tomas Kaberle will also be facing his former teammates for the first time since the trade involving he and Spacek on Dec. 9.
The Hurricanes come in on a nice roll of their own with a 6-2-4 record in their last 12 games, and aside from long-term casualties Brian Boucher in goal and Joni Pitkanen on defense, they are also arriving healthy.
The Canadiens' lineup for this game will be a lot of guesswork beyond starting goaltender Carey Price, who will face Cam Ward in the Hurricanes net.
A lower-body injury to Yannick Weber and Travis Moen re-aggravating an upper-body injury last week that had previously cost him five games led the Canadiens to call up Ryan White and Ian Schultz from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL on Sunday evening.
White has missed the whole season recovering from hernia surgery in training camp, but he played three games in three days while on a conditioning stint in Hamilton and playing Monday would be his fourth game in as many days. Still, he appeared determined to go even though coach Randy Cunneyworth called his status a game-time decision.
Schultz's status is the same after his surprise call-up left the Canadiens with 13 healthy forwards. The most likely scenario would see White return and Schultz left aside while one of Chris Campoli or Raphael Diaz would be scratched on defense. Or Cunneyworth could go with seven defensemen as he has for much of this winning streak and also scratch Aaron Palushaj along with Schultz up front.
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens look to be welcoming back a big piece of their lineup when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, and it's an addition that will likely make many other teams around the League take notice as well.
Forward Travis Moen, an impending free agent who could be moved by the Habs prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, will most likely make his return from an upper-body injury that has cost him the past five games.
Moen skated Tuesday morning with a non-contact jersey, but he was supposed to meet with doctors later in the day to get his final clearance. Moen said his status would be a game time decision, but coach Randy Cunneyworth said he was "confident" the big forward will play.
If Moen can't go, Cunneyworth said he may dress just 10 forwards and eight defensemen for the game, but that appears to be a remote possibility.
For the Penguins, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will get his 26th start in Pittsburgh's last 27 games, a situation he brushed off because "we had the All-Star break, and that gave me some rest."
Coach Dan Bylsma revealed backup Brent Johnson can expect to see more work in February with six sets of back-to-back games on the schedule. He said Johnson will play anywhere between seven and 11 of Pittsburgh's final 28 games after the one in Montreal.
As far as what looks like a mismatch on paper between a Penguins team that has won nine of 11 games and a Canadiens team sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, Bylsma would have none of it.
The last two times these teams have met the Penguins had to erase two-goal deficits to win, once in a shootout and another in overtime.
"The last game, I would say they had success and we had to kind of rescue that game in the end, which we did with a big goal from Geno (Evgeni Malkin)," Bylsma said. "There are aspects of the Canadiens that have always given us problems -- speed forwards, plays around the net. They've always given us problems there, and this is a tough place to play for us."
Defenseman Kristopher Letang will be playing at Bell Centre for the first time since suffering a concussion here on a hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty that cost him six weeks of action. He says he bears no ill will towards Pacioretty and that his three-game suspension was punishment enough, but mainly Letang feels the disparity in the standings should be forgotten by his Penguins for this game.
"Regardless of their situation, that’s not our problem," Letang said. "Our problem is winning games."
The Penguins held an optional skate Tuesday morning so it would be difficult to guess their lines, particularly with the absence of Tyler Kennedy to a lower-body injury. The one unit that can go to the bank is Evgeni Malkin centering Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Malkin has 12 goals and 4 assists in his last 11 games, while Neal has 6 goals and 7 assists over the same span.
The Canadiens paired Josh Gorges and Hal Gill to face that line the last time they played and the duo was extremely effective until Malkin scored with 2:43 to play to tie the game and send it to overtime. It's a strategy Cunneyworth may want to use again.
Montreal is 19-23-9 and with 47 points the Canadiens are in a three-way tie for the least in the Eastern Conference. As a dashing run towards a postseason berth becomes more and more improbable, Montreal is likely to face the reality of becoming a seller at the trade deadline.
Here’s what NHL.com’s Arpon Basu wrote earlier today on the subject for the League’s French website:
While a playoff spot is a distant 11 points away, the Canadiens find themselves just two points out of 29th in the League standings. The situation has many of the team’s fans openly excited about the prospect of landing a top-five pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, and it also positions the Canadiens as potential sellers leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
With both the deadline and the standings serving as potential distractions for his players, coach Randy Cunneyworth will have quite a job to do to keep the Canadiens focused over the coming weeks.
“What I look at – and what I hope my players look at – is what’s in front of us today, maybe tomorrow, but beyond that it doesn’t matter at this time. What matters is today,” Cunneyworth said. “To look beyond today or tomorrow would be too overwhelming.”
The Canadiens have a few players set to hit unrestricted free agency who could be attractive to contending teams looking to shore up at the deadline.
Rugged forward Travis Moen and penalty killing specialist Hal Gill are both former Stanley Cup winners who have excelled in the playoffs with the Canadiens.
Gill has played a more limited role with the club this season, but his ability to shutdown opposing teams’ top players becomes a very valued commodity in the playoffs when matchups become so much more important.
As for Moen, he is just two goals and five points shy of his career highs in each category while still serving as a top-end penalty killer for the Canadiens. He is currently out with an upper body injury, but Cunneyworth said he hopes to have Moen back next week.
Then there is defenseman Chris Campoli, who has dressed in just 10 of the 19 games Cunneyworth has coached.
Signed late in the summer to add a veteran presence to a young defense group, Campoli tore a hamstring on opening night. Then after his second game back, head coach Jacques Martin was fired and Campoli has not been able to grab a regular spot on a Canadiens defense that is not loaded with star power.
Campoli was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks prior to last season’s trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators and he played an important role with them, which is why he is convinced he can still do the same.
Except he hopes he gets that chance in Montreal.
“The most frustrating thing is I’m capable of more. Playing top-four minutes in Chicago last year, I know I’m capable of more,” Campoli said. “But my focus day by day is trying to get back in this lineup. As far as future opportunities are concerned, that’s not what I’m focused on.
“Having said that, if someone thinks enough of you to trade for you, it’s tough moving on but from my past experience it’s something you would have to be excited about. But again, my focus is on being a Montreal Canadien and trying to get back in this lineup.”
For Campoli’s teammates, it is keeping that same focus of playing for the pride that comes with wearing a Canadiens sweater that will be challenging. And in Lars Eller’s eyes, simply talking about it has become very tiresome.
“It’s very frustrating because there’s been so much talk,” he said. “Too much talk on what’s not being done right, and this or that, blah, blah, blah. The focus has been on the wrong things. There should be less talk and more acting out there. That’s the short story.”
MONTREAL -- Two Original Six teams with gloried histories will meet tonight, but that is just about the only similarity you could find between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens.
The Red Wings have been the NHL’s model franchise for years, a team with stable management that has followed a well-thought-out plan to produce consistent contenders. The Canadiens once were in that position but haven't been there for quite some time, and currently are enduring a franchise-record Stanley Cup drought of 18 years that in all likelihood will be extended this season.
On paper the game between the League's first-place team and one that sits 24th in the standings should be no contest. And that is exactly what Red Wings coach Mike Babcock does not want his players to be thinking.
"I sure hope not," Babcock said after the Red Wings' morning skate. "I think this team has good players, I know their goaltender's outstanding. They seem to play a tight, organized system. I know they did under Jacques (Martin, former coach), and I know Randy (Cunneyworth) from coaching against him in the minors, so I don't think they'll be any different. It's going to be a tough test for us. I think we understand that each and every night."
Babcock said people should not let the Red Wings' current seven-game win streak fool them into thinking his club simply is steamrolling over the League.
"You know, when you win games, game after game after game, some people on the outside think you're winning them all by a touchdown," he said. "They’re 3-2 and 2-1 every night, it's tight every night. It's a shootout, it's overtime -- it's a grind."
Babcock isn't joking, as four of the Red Wings' wins in their current streak came via the shootout while another came in overtime.
Detroit's last loss was Jan. 10 on Long Island, a situation that is somewhat similar to the one the Red Wings will face tonight in Montreal -- facing an Eastern Conference team sitting near the bottom of the standings.
"The Islanders beat us like a rented mule. It wasn't even fair," said Babcock. "We thought they were the '68 Habs. I'm not trying to take anything away from them, but we weren't ready to go. Sometimes those things happen, it's an 82-game schedule. Yet we've been a pretty consistent team that's found ways to play well without the puck and score enough goals to win most nights."
Star center Henrik Zetterberg said the players want to correct what has been their only fault this season, and that's a 13-13-0 record on the road.
He said playing in the charged atmosphere of the Bell Centre should help the Red Wings.
"We haven't been as good as we wanted on the road, even though we've won a few games lately," said Zetterberg. "I don't think we're playing to the standard that we want. Especially coming into this building, you kind of circle this date early in the year. We're looking forward to this. It's great fans, it's real loud -- we're going to be fired up to play here."
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens once again will attempt to embark on a potentially season-saving winning streak tonight, but they will have to do it against an angry Washington Capitals team.
Not only do the Capitals have injured teammate Nicklas Backstrom on their minds as they face the player who hurt him, Montreal's Rene Bourque, but they are coming off a 3-0 loss at home to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, when they generated just 17 shots on goal.
"We came out flat, they jumped on us on their power play and they shut us down after that," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "We didn't generate much. They trapped it up and did a good job. You've got to give them credit."
The loss was just the Capitals' third in their past 10 games, and it was the first time all season they've been shut out. But this game marks the first of a stretch of six out of seven games on the road, with the final one of those games back here in Montreal on Feb. 4. Washington has struggled mightily away from Verizon Center this season, with a 7-12-1 road record, including just one win in their past six road games (1-4-1).
The Canadiens, coming off a convincing 4-1 win against the New York Rangers, will look to string together consecutive wins for just the fifth time this season. Aside from a four-game win streak from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4, the Habs have won as many as two games in a row on just three other occasions.
Coach Randy Cunneyworth will go with the same lineup that beat the Rangers, meaning he will dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards for an eighth straight game. The lone exception will be Carey Price coming back in for Peter Budaj in goal.
The game also will mark the Bell Centre return of former Canadiens Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern, who both left Montreal over the summer to sign as free agents with Washington.
Here are the expected lineups:
Bourque watched from the press box as his new teammates dropped a 3-2 shootout to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, and Cunneyworth says he couldn't be more excited to try on his new uniform.
"What we're looking at is a guy who champing at the bit to get going," Cunneyworth said.
Bourque will slide into a spot filled Saturday by Scott Gomez in his first game back from a groin injury that cost him 21 games. Cunneyworth said Gomez will see some time at center on the fourth line in Sunday's game after playing exclusively on the wing with Plekanec on Saturday.
Peter Budaj will get just his sixth start in goal for the Canadiens, and his first since Dec. 21 when he allowed four goals in a 5-1 loss in Chicago. Cunneyworth said he had no problem relying on a cold goaltender against a team as formidable as the Rangers, who enter the night first in the overall standings.
"We have the utmost confidence in both our goaltenders," he said, adding he has leaned a bit too heavily on Carey Price of late.
Both teams played Saturday night, with the Rangers winning 3-0 in Toronto, a game coach John Tortorella felt his team "defended as well as we have all year."
Martin Biron got the shutout in that game, so Henrik Lundqvist will get the start Sunday in a building that has historically not been kind to him. Lundqvist has a career mark of 4-4-2 with a 3.86 GAA and .877 save percentage in 11 career starts in Montreal.
Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury.
MONTREAL -- Rene Bourque says he's always wanted to play for the Montreal Canadiens, and with a name like his that would be understandable even though the Alberta native doesn't speak a word of French.
So when he walked into the Canadiens dressing room for the first time Saturday morning after his trade Thursday from the Calgary Flames, Bourque was a bit awestruck by the sheer volume of hockey history decorating the walls.
"It's awesome," Bourque said. "I still haven't really had the chance to look around and look at all the plaques and the names on the wall, and I'm sure they have Stanley Cup banners everywhere. It's exciting. I've always wanted to play here, I just didn't think it would be this soon."
Bourque's excitement will have to wait another day as he will watch the Canadiens face the red hot Ottawa Senators on Saturday night while serving the final game of his five-game ban for elbowing Washington's Nicklas Backstrom in the head.
Bourque was brought in by Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier because he brings a physical dimension that the departed Michael Cammalleri did not, but for a player who has been suspended twice in the past month it creates a delicate balance of trying to stay on the good side of the law while also doing what your new team expects of you.
Bourque, however, anticipates no problem in his ability to stick to his physical game while also playing within the rules.
"Obviously what I did was wrong and it was unfortunate, but it was more of a reaction than a body check. So I'm not really worried about being timid out there and staying away from physical contact, because if I'm not doing that you probably won't like my style," Bourque said. "I've never had a problem with a suspension until this past month. It's been seven years with no red flags, then two in one month, it changes your perception. I'm not worried about it, I know what I've done and I'll learn from it."
His new coach Randy Cunneyworth was a physical presence in his own playing days, and says that changed perception may not necessarily be a bad thing for Bourque.
"It makes guys a little bit leery when you know a guy has that reckless tendency," Cunneyworth said. "So maybe you shy away a bit and then you can win those battles."
A very common criticism of Bourque's game is that when he's on, he can be dominant, but those games are not nearly common enough. Bourque has heard it before and hopes this new opportunity with the third organization of his career will give him a chance to correct that inconsistent tendency.
"I'm working on it every game, I have to get better every game," Bourque said. "This is a fresh start for me here, it's a clean slate. I'm looking to shed that reputation, I guess."
How exactly Bourque will be used remains to be seen, but the addition of another big body makes it easier for Cunneyworth to implement his philosophy of how to construct forward lines.
"We're trying to design lines with elements of everything," he said.
That means having a playmaker, a shooter and a grinding, physical player on every line, but before Bourque arrived there weren't enough of those physical type players on the roster to properly spread the wealth and Cunneyworth said he liked the options Bourque provides him.
Bourque, meanwhile, simply likes the idea of pulling on that Canadiens uniform for the first time Sunday night.
"It's sinking in, I'm definitely getting more and more excited as they day goes on," Bourque said. "I can't wait to play tomorrow night in front of the fans here."
Newly-acquired left wing Rene Bourque skated with his teammates for the first time this morning, but he will serve the final game of his five-game suspension for elbowing Washington's Nicklas Backstrom and won't be available to make his Canadiens debut until Sunday night at home against the New York Rangers.
Cunneyworth also confirmed he will dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards for a sixth straight game. Yannick Weber, who scored Montreal's lone goal in a 2-1 loss in Boston on Thursday, should dress instead of Chris Campoli.
For Ottawa coach Paul MacLean there will be no changes to the lineup, and why would he considering the impressive 3-0 win the team is coming off of against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday?
MONTREAL – The obvious storyline in Montreal tonight will be Canadiens goalie Carey Price facing the man who stole his job and led the franchise on its longest playoff run since its last Stanley Cup win in 1993, St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak.
But even after all this time has passed, Price still sticks to the story he kept telling over and over again as Halak was leading the Canadiens to the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals.
“That was a good thing about our relationship,” Price said Monday. “Any relationship between two goalies has got to be healthy. It was his job to push me and mine to push him. He was playing well. At the end of the day the guy who’s playing the best is going to play, and he was playing extremely well so he deserved the ice time.”
Both star attractions have insisted this is not a game pitting goalie vs. goalie, but rather one pitting a team desperate to save its season against another team who has already accomplished just that.
The Blues have gone 18-5-5 since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench in place of Davis Payne to rocket up to fourth in the Western Conference standings. But the Blues record on the road over that span is just 4-3-3, having benefitted greatly from a schedule heavily weighted with home games.
After leaving Montreal, St. Louis will play eight of its next nine games at home before embarking on a brutal stretch of 18 out of 26 games on the road. So Hitchcock is hoping his club will figure out its problems away from home in Montreal.
“It’s not about where you’re playing, it’s about playing on the road,” he said. “We’ve played awful well on the road then had a bit of a glitch and broke a few times and let in goals quickly. I think for us it’s just to keep going. We can put a lot of pressure on people if we’re forechecking and putting our game out there, we just have to stay with it a bit longer. We can’t let other team’s goalies frustrate us the way we have the last few road games.”
The Canadiens have the opposite problem.
They have played reasonably well on the road but have struggled at home for most of the season. Yet the Habs have won their last two at the Bell Centre and will be looking to win a third straight game on home ice for the first time this season.
Lineup changes should be minimal on both sides.
The Blues welcome back defenseman Ian Cole after he completed his three-game suspension for a hit on Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader.
The Canadiens were unsure of Max Pacioretty’s availability after he missed practice Monday with the flu, but he was on the ice this morning and looks ready to go. Coach Randy Cunneyworth will once again dress seven defensemen and it looks likely that center Petteri Nokelainen will be scratched for a second straight game as a result.
Of course, there’s no need to remind anyone of the goaltending matchup.
Interim coach Randy Cunneyworth said he was not sure whether or not Pacioretty would be back for Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Blues, but it is clear Gomez will not be ready in time.
"We're looking at it fairly soon, but he's not quite there," Cunneyworth said. "He's been working hard and it would be great to get him back."
The question is where Gomez would fit in the lineup when he is ready to play. The top three center spots are currently filled by Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Lars Eller. While Desharnais and Eller would be the natural candidates to lose their spot to Gomez, both have been playing very well of late and each had more ice time than Plekanec in Montreal's 3-1 win against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
"It's a nice problem to have," Cunneyworth said. "Any time you have an abundance of quality guys who can play well, decisions have to be made."
Gomez's performance on the ice coupled with his huge salary cap figure has not exactly made him a popular figure in Montreal. He has just 4 assists in 13 games this season, and dating back to the start of last season Gomez has 7 goals, 35 assists and a minus-18 rating in 94 games. Still, Cunneyworth sees him as an important part of his team's fortunes as it attempts to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
"I think he's a top-six guy with his skills and presence on the ice," Cunneyworth said. "That remains to be seen (where he plays in the lineup), it will come through his play. Any line we put him on, it will make it a more skilled group. If he's on the first line or the fourth line, he has to do what he does best."
This is one of the few times in Gomez's career he's missed a significant portion of the season to injury. Since his rookie season with the New Jersey Devils in 1999-2000 he has only missed more than six games in any given season on one occasion, when he played 72 games for the Devils in 2006-07. Having already missed 28 games, including a nine-game absence earlier this season, Gomez is guaranteed to establish a new career-low for games played.
"It's been a while since I sat out this much," Gomez said. "No one wants to be in this position, you just don't feel a part of it. It's a bad feeling, you don’t feel like you're contributing. You feel like you're in the way."
Cunneyworth appeared to be leaning towards doing the same thing tonight against the Lightning even though the return of Brian Gionta to the lineup makes it somewhat unnecessary. Meanwhile, the only reason Boucher hasn’t used it more this season is because he simply hasn’t had enough healthy defensemen to do it.
That may change tonight as newly acquired defenseman Brendan Mikkelson is available to play.
“When you play with seven D it gets guys like Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis on the ice more often, and it also means you’re defensemen are playing fewer minutes,” Boucher said. “It’s something I’ve used in the past, actually I’ve used it almost every year except this one. But if that’s something we can do, it’s something I would look forward to.”
As for Cunneyworth, his decision to dress seven defensemen Wednesday meant Chris Campoli, Tomas Kaberle and Hal Gill essentially split the third-pairing minutes. It also meant right wing Erik Cole was double and sometimes triple-shifted, resulting in a career-high 27:04 of ice time.
While it would appear that is not a system that could be used on a long-term basis, Cunneyworth didn’t agree, particularly with Gionta being able to take some of those extra shifts from Cole on the right side.
“If the results are there, certainly,” Cunneyworth said when asked if the seven defenseman lineup was sustainable. “I think it creates pressure to perform (on defense). There’s some competition to play the right way, and I think that can be a good thing.”
Gill – who has played 22:35 combined over the past two games – received the fewest minutes among the seven defensemen Wednesday, and while he didn’t want to complain about it he wasn’t exactly thrilled with it either.
“I’d like to play the role the team needs me to play,” he said. “But obviously I’d like to play more.”
The Canadiens had some good news on the injury front as center Scott Gomez was back skating with his teammates for the first time since suffering a setback in his recovery from an upper-body injury about three weeks ago.
“He’s coming along,” Cunneyworth said. “He appears to be on the mend, so we’re upping the ante little.”
The Canadiens and Lightning enter the game tied in points at 37 apiece, with Tampa holding a game in hand. It makes the contest a four-point game between two playoff teams from last season who find themselves in a desperate fight to book a ticket to this spring’s edition.
Some may find it early to be using the term “desperate,” but the NHL’s goal scoring leader Steven Stamkos is not one of them.
“I don’t think it’s early, we’re halfway done here,” Stamkos said. “These are the game we have to win. You don’t win these games, there’s no race. You’re not even in the discussion for the playoffs. We have to show some desperation. We’re in the same boat as these guys, so it should be a good game tonight.”
Neither team went through line rushes at their morning skate and both teams are considering dressing seven defensemen, but for entirely different reasons.
In the Lightning’s case, the possible return of Ryan Malone from an upper-body injury that has cost him two games and the arrival of newly-acquired defenseman Brendan Mikkelson from the Calgary Flames give coach Guy Boucher the option of going either way, depending on Malone’s status come game time.
The loss of former Habs prospect JT Wyman to an upper-body injury in Ottawa on Thursday is mitigated by the return of Brett Connolly from the Canadian national junior team. Minor-league call-up Pierre-Cedric Labrie, a native of Baie-Comeau, Que., will play his first NHL game.
For the Canadiens, coach Randy Cunneyworth will have captain Brian Gionta available after an 11-game absence with a groin injury. He also said he may dress seven defensemen, but that decision would be based on how successful the team was with that lineup in their 7-3 win against Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Cunneyworth did not tip his hand either way, but it would appear he will be going with seven defensemen tonight based on what some of the players said. If that’s the case, one of Mathieu Darche or Michael Blunden would have to come out, and considering Blunden has seen his role increase considerably since Cunneyworth took over behind the bench eight games ago, Darche could be the odd man out.
Cunneyworth also said defenseman Alexei Emelin, who took a puck in the face at practice Friday, is expected to play with a full cage depending on how he felt after participating fully in the morning skate.
Just about the only thing set in stone is the goaltending matchup, with Boucher electing to go with former Habs goalie Mathieu Garon to face Carey Price, who starts for the 15th time in 16 games.
Here are the very tentative lineups for tonight’s game:
Gionta has missed the past 11 games with a groin injury, one of a few key Canadiens components currently on the shelf.
The Canadiens went 4-7-0 and replaced head coach Jacques Martin with Randy Cunneyworth on an interim basis in Gionta's absence.
"You never want to miss time," Gionta told reporters after practice Friday. "Obviously it was a little worse than what we thought at first, but it was something we needed to take care of. There's still half a season left, so hopefully there's time for us to come back."
While Gionta's return was not 100 percent confirmed, the club sent forward Louis Leblanc back down to the minors following Wednesday night's game, which is a good indication that Gionta should be back.
Eller had 4 goals and an assist, Moen had 3 assists and Kostitsyn had 2 assists in Wednesday's big 7-3 home win over the Winnipeg Jets.
But Gionta warned that his teammates should not allow that game to veer them off the course of their long-term goal.
"We've talked about it all year, it's the consistency," he said. "We played a great game, we did the things we needed to do to be successful. But we need to do that night in and night out."
The win was just Montreal's second in nine games, and Saturday night the Canadiens will be looking to string two or more wins together for just the fourth time all season.
While Gionta prepares to make a return, defenseman Alexei Emelin had a scare at practice when he took a Yannick Weber wrist shot off the left cheek. He left the practice spitting blood, but Cunneyworth said the puck hit the "fleshy" part of the cheek and the hard-hitting defenseman should be alright for Saturday's game.
Emelin had to have a plate inserted in his left cheek after losing a fight in 2009 against former NHLer Alexander Svitov while playing in the KHL.
Cunneyworth also said that injured center Scott Gomez should be the next player to come off the injured list, though he has yet to practice with his teammates. Ryan White and Andrei Markov have not played a game this season. White's return remains unknown, while Markov will be out until at least the All-Star break at the end of the month.
MONTREAL -- Something will have to give Wednesday night when one of the League's worst home teams faces one of the League's worst on the road at the Bell Centre.
The Montreal Canadiens have a League-low five wins in 18 games on home ice (5-7-6), which is a big reason why they sit 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Montreal is coming off a 1-5-0 road trip and this will be interim coach Randy Cunneyworth's second game at the Bell Centre since he was named to replace Jacques Martin on Dec. 17. The Canadiens play six of their next seven and 11 of their next 15 games at home.
"We didn't get the wins we needed on the road," Cunneyworth told reporters at the team's suburban practice facility. "It's time to start winning at home."
Meanwhile, the visiting Winnipeg Jets enter the game as one of the League's worst road teams, with just five wins in 17 games (5-8-4). Only Carolina, Anaheim and Columbus have fewer wins on opposing rinks, and this game marks the first in a stretch where the Jets will play 14 of their next 19 games on the road.
However, forward Eric Fehr believes that road record is a bit misleading because the bulk of those games were played prior to December, when the Jets played 12 of 14 games at home and went 10-3-1 to get themselves back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
"It's not as accurate as it looks," Fehr said of the Jets' road record. "We didn't get off to the start we wanted, we were getting adjusted to a new coach and a new city, but that's when we had a lot of those road games. We're a different team now with a different identity."
Head coach Claude Noel -- who gave a statement in French prior to speaking to local reporters -- agreed with Fehr's assessment of the situation.
"We're becoming a team that's hard to play against," Noel said. "Some people look at that from a physicality standpoint, but I'd say we're becoming a hard team to play against from a checking standpoint. …We play a good, strong game for each other. I like the way we're playing."
The Jets will welcome back two players from injuries, while another looks to be approaching a return. Regular top line center Bryan Little skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering a foot injury on Dec. 17, costing him the last six games.
"It felt good," Little said. "I'd say I'm day-to-day now."
Little ruled out a return against Montreal or Thursday night in Toronto, but said it was possible in Buffalo on Saturday.
Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien remains out for the Jets, but Jones will return to the lineup after missing practically the entire season with two injuries. An ankle ailment cost him 15 games earlier this season, and then after two games in the lineup he suffered a back injury that has kept him out of the last nine contests.
Slater will also return after missing two games with an upper-body injury.
For the Canadiens, captain Brian Gionta skated with the team for a second straight day but is not ready to return from a groin injury that has cost him 10 games, though it appears he should be back for Saturday night's home game against Tampa.
Having played outdoors last year in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Flyers forward Max Talbot was doling out some advice to his teammates Sunday morning before they hit the ice at Citizens Bank Park for practice ahead of the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic.
Talbot knows how impressive it can be for players to walk out to the rink in the middle of a huge stadium for the first time, and how that might impact the way certain players approach practice.
Except Sunday’s practice was more important than most, and Talbot wanted to be sure his teammates took full advantage of it.
“This morning I went to see a couple of the rookies and the young players and also my linemates,” Talbot said. “I just wanted them to visualize the stands full and that there was another team on the ice, not to just come and practice for the fun of it. We won’t have a morning skate tomorrow, and it’s different. It’s tough to get your bearings and the game starts quickly so we need to be ready. It’s two big points.”
“It’s a bit different going from a football stadium to a baseball stadium, it seems like the seats are a lot closer,” he said. “But I really liked the ice conditions today. It was better than last year.”
Sean Couturier may be the youngest player on the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is that very fact that gives him a good dose of experience when it comes to playing in the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic.
“I’m a young guy, so three or four years ago I was still playing outside with my friends,” said Couturier, who just turned 19 last month. “So this is pretty cool.”
It is so cool, in fact, that Couturier has decided to share the moment with as many of his loved ones as possible. His parents will be part of a contingent of 13 members of his family and friends who are in Philadelphia to watch Monday’s main event.
“It’s going to be very special for them,” Couturier said. “It’s not every day you get to play outside. So I think they’re going to appreciate the moment.”
Couturier returned to action Thursday night for the Flyers, notching a pair of assists in Philadelphia’s 4-2 win in Pittsburgh. He missed four games recovering from an ear problem suffered in a 6-0 loss to Boston on Dec. 17 when Couturier was hit behind the ear by a shot.
He said the ear felt like it was completely blocked when it was at its worst, but that his hearing is practically fully returned now.
BROSSARD, Que. – The Montreal Canadiens and their embattled coach Randy Cunneyworth made some wholesale changes to their line combinations at practice Monday, and it looks as though two young players who were punished as healthy scratches last game are the biggest beneficiaries.
Defenseman P.K. Subban – the team leader in ice time – and center Lars Eller watched the Canadiens 4-0 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on Thursday from the press box.
But at practice Monday, Subban was on Montreal's top defense pairing with Josh Gorges and Eller was centering what could be considered the Canadiens top forward line between the team's top two goal scorers – Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole.
The two players went from sitting out as healthy scratches to playing prominent roles in the lineup over the break, a Christmas present that both Subban nor Eller could have seen coming based on what happened in Winnipeg.
"When you're not getting the results, you have to make some changes, try some things," Cunneyworth said after a high-energy, one hour skate at the Canadiens suburban practice facility.
However, Cunneyworth later noted that "nothing is set in stone" when it comes to his lineup for Tuesday night's game in Ottawa.
"This isn't about me, it's about the team," Eller said. "We had two days off, so it will give us a chance to get a fresh start with a new mindset. I just want to help the team win."
Subban called it embarrassing to be a healthy scratch in Winnipeg, but after posting a minus-5 rating in his three previous games – and admitting publicly having cost his team with glaring errors in losses in Boston and Chicago – he said he needed to make sure he played well enough so he would never find himself in the same situation again.
"If I have the chance to play, I have to do my job," he said. "If there are six or seven guys who are playing better than me, and if that's what the coach thinks, that's the decision he's going to make. You can't be surprised. It's a part of the job. He asked me to sit down and that's what I did. I sat down. I don't know if I'll be back in the lineup, but if I am, I'm going to try to play the way I know I can."
With 46 games left, the Canadiens (13-16-6) sit 12th in the Eastern Conference and are in serious risk of drifting out of the playoff picture if they can't turn things around quickly. After Tuesday night's game in Ottawa, Montreal will complete its season-long six-game road trip with visits to the Lightning on Thursday and the Panthers on Saturday.
BROSSARD, Que. -- Both the Flyers and the Canadiens will be missing their captains when the teams meet tonight at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
The Flyers have been without Chris Pronger for nearly a month due to concussion-type symptoms, as well as knee surgery that would have sidelined him anyway until the end of the month, at the earliest.
Philadelphia also will play its second game without Claude Giroux, the League's leading scorer.
The Flyers are also missing rookie center Brayden Schenn due to a concussion, though he skated with the team Wednesday, the first time since he was injured Dec. 3 against Phoenix. Also working his way back is defenseman Andreas Lilja, out with a high ankle sprain suffered Nov. 25. Neither will play tonight.
Canadiens captain Brian Gionta will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury. He'll be joined as a spectator tonight by forward Travis Moen, who left Tuesday's 5-3 win against the Islanders with a lower-body injury. Also, defenseman Raphael Diaz is out with an illness.
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Philadelphia Flyers arrived in Montreal for their game against the Canadiens on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) with three forward lines scoring goals on a regular basis.
The Canadiens, on the other hand, have one.
The line of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty has been the Canadiens' most consistent trio all season, and they will be counted on to produce against the high-powered Flyers, who lead the League with 3.66 goals per game, including the five they scored in Washington on Tuesday while missing League scoring leader Claude Giroux due to a concussion.
While Cole and Pacioretty are well-known commodities in the NHL, Desharnais is not quite a household name.
Listed at 5-foot-7 and 177 pounds, Desharnais has beaten the odds as an undrafted free agent who dominated the ECHL and American Hockey League not only to reach the NHL, but thrive there.
"I didn't know a tremendous amount about him," Cole said of Desharnais. "But I was impressed with him when I played against the Canadiens last year. For a small player he's strong in puck battles. His compete level is very high."
The emphasis on the Desharnais line producing is made all the more glaring by the lack of production coming from Montreal's other key offensive players -- Michael Cammalleri has 1 goal in his last nine games, Tomas Plekanec has 1 goal in his last 11 games, and Brian Gionta, before he was sidelined with a lower-body injury that will cost him a third game Thursday, had 1 goal in his last nine games.
"It's got to get better," said Cammalleri. "But no, I'm not frustrated."
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Flyers did not skate this morning so it's difficult to judge what their exact lineup will be or who will start in goal, but Ilya Bryzgalov has started the last six games -- all Flyers wins -- so it would be odd to turn away from him now. Carey Price will be in goal for Montreal.
Here are tonight's likely lineups when the teams meet tonight at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., NHLN-US, TSN).
Nabokov suffered a groin injury the last time the Islanders faced the Canadiens, a 4-3 win at home Nov. 17, but was taken off injured reserve Monday.
In Nabokov's absence, and with Rick DiPietro still sidelined with a groin injury of his own, Montoya has played extremely well, with a 3-2-2 record, .915 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average in his last eight games. That includes 13 saves in a shutout third period to preserve a 5-4 win against Dallas on Dec. 3 for DiPietro after he was injured.
Meanwhile, Nabokov waits.
"I really like the way the last couple of days of practice have gone for him, but we have a lot of games coming up," Capuano said. "So we'll get him some additional work and he'll be ready shortly for us."
Nabokov did not hide his disappointment with the decision after Tuesday's morning skate, but admitted he needs to earn the starting job back from Montoya.
"The big thing is to play well," he said. "In a competitive league you have to play well in order to have a chance. It doesn't matter what team you're on, if you're fighting for first spot in the conference or fighting for a playoff spot, whoever gives you the best chance to win has to play."
It has been a long, strange trip for Nabokov ever since he hit free agency as one of the League's top goalies in the summer of 2010, coming off a season where he went 44-16-10 with a .922 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average in 71 games for the San Jose Sharks.
But Nabokov found no suitors in a flooded goalie market who were willing to meet his asking price, and instead headed to the KHL. His stay there lasted just 22 games, and then hoped to land in Detroit when he signed with the Red Wings. But the Islanders grabbed him on a waiver claim, and after sitting out last season after the waiver claim, he's been with the Isles since training camp.
"I hate free agency," Nabokov said with a laugh. "Things change. That was the first time I became a free agent. Oops."
His time in Long Island has been tumultuous, to say the least, but he says he wants to make it work with the Islanders, except he is not willing to entertain the idea of being a backup.
"I don't think I will ever agree with that term," he said. "I do like to play, but you have to give your team a chance to win and you have to play well in order to demand something or expect something. That's the bottom line."
Nabokov said he feels he was given ample opportunity to prove himself earlier this season only to be de-railed by this groin injury. He'll now have to wait a bit longer to get another opportunity to start over.
For Montreal, defenseman Chris Campoli will re-enter the lineup to play for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury on opening night in Toronto on Oct. 6. He will be on Montreal's third defense pairing, with newcomer Tomas Kaberle, who will make his Bell Centre debut after being acquired from Carolina in a trade for Jaroslav Spacek last Friday.
Campoli also will play on the second power-play unit, alongside Raphael Diaz, while Kaberle and P.K. Subban man the points on the first unit.
Kesler, Chris Higgins and newcomer David Booth had exploded for a combined nine points in a 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. But Higgins missed the next game Tuesday night against Colorado with a staph infection in his foot, leaving Hansen to fill the void.
Then Booth took a knee-on-knee hit from Avalanche defenseman Kevin Porter, spraining the MCL in his knee, an injury that will cost him four to six weeks.
So, for the Canucks' game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, Raymond will grab Booth's spot, and Kesler has himself a brand-new line.
"To lose both my wingers, it's kind of a shock to me," he added later. "One game we put up nine points together, and the next game I don't have my two wingers."
While Higgins is not expected to miss an extended period of time -- coach Alain Vigneault said once the cut on his foot heals enough to allow him to put his skate on, he should play -- Booth's absence is especially sad for a player who looked to be finally finding the form that made him a one-time 30-goal scorer with the Florida Panthers.
His career was derailed Oct. 24, 2009, when he absorbed a monster hit from Mike Richards, then a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He came back later that season, but struggled to find his game until he was ultimately traded by the Panthers to the Canucks in October.
Since being put on Kesler's line with Higgins on Nov. 25, Booth had 3 goals and 2 assists in five games when he was injured.
"He was playing well for us, David," Kesler said. "He was one of those guys where it was his first time being traded, it was probably a shock for him. He really started to turn it on, playing the hockey he probably wanted to be playing. He was producing, our line was producing."
MONTREAL -- The Vancouver Canucks arrive in Montreal for their matchup with the Canadiens tonight a battered bunch.
Two-thirds of their second line is out with injury, with David Booth slated to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL and Chris Higgins day-to-day with a staph infection in his foot.
As a result, Bill Sweatt, the 38th pick in the 2007 Entry Draft and a former Colorado College standout, will make his NHL debut against the Canadiens on the third line with Maxim Lapierre and Cody Hodgson.
Roberto Luongo gets the start in his hometown, where he hasn't won in his last three starts over three years. His last win in Montreal dates back to a shutout during the 2006-07 season, when Luongo spent the previous night in a local hospital after taking a shot in the throat in practice before beating the Habs 4-0.
Ironically enough, Luongo had to leave his last game after taking a shot in the throat as well, but the Canadiens are hoping history doesn't repeat itself. Overall, Luongo is 3-6-4 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .923 save percentage playing in his hometown.
For Montreal, defenseman Yannick Weber will be a healthy scratch to make room for Frederic St-Denis. Weber was benched for the second half of the Canadiens 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Tuesday after he allowed R.J. Umberger to skate unfettered to the Montreal net and score the go-ahead goal on Carey Price.
Weber's main role is to help the power play with his booming shot, but he hasn't been very effective in that role lately and was taken off the first unit, making his defensive errors all the more glaring.
Price gets the start in goal to face the team he cheered for growing up in Anahim Lake, B.C.
Carter missed the Blue Jackets' last game in Edmonton -- a 6-3 loss to the Oilers -- with a sprained ankle, but he declared himself fit and ready to go back to his spot next to Rick Nash on Columbus' top line.
"For the opposition coaches and the opposition players, he's a big threat," said Columbus coach Scott Arniel, who went without Carter for a 10-game stretch earlier this season. "When he's not there they can key on Nash and key on a few other people. Jeff, his ability to shoot the puck and to get into the offense and get open is so big. It helps our power play a lot and it makes teams adjust. We talked about it in the beginning of the year when we brought him in it would take some of the pressure off Rick. So when he's out, it is noticeable."
The Blue Jackets find themselves in the desperate situation of needing to make up ground in a hurry to save their season after an 0-7-1 start dug them into a serious hole.
Nash says that as captain, remaining positive has been a difficult task.
"It's been a tough job, for sure, especially as a leader on the team," he said. "You see the lowest that guys get, so it's tough to keep guys upbeat. But we knew we were going to work our way out of it. It's just a matter of making up as much ground as we can right now."
At the same time, Nash says it is just as important not to think of just how much ground there is left to make up.
"I think that's what we were doing early on in our losing streak, we were worrying about how we were going to make up all these games," Nash said. "But in that last few weeks we've taken it by period and even by five-minute segments within periods. We just tried to break it down as simply as we could and let the big picture take care of itself."
"I consider them good friends," Sanford said. "But tonight, we're not going to be friends out there."
Meanwhile, Blue Jackets center Derrick Brassard -- a native Quebecer -- will be a healthy scratch for an eighth time in 12 games. In Carter's absence in Edmonton, Brassard got 16:42 of ice time -- his highest total in three weeks -- registering four shots on goal and a plus-1 rating.
"I try to talk to him a little bit. It's not an easy situation," said fellow Quebecer Antoine Vermette in French. "I'm trying to encourage him as much as I can, but it's hard on him. He's still maintaining a good attitude about it, though. He's not hanging his head around the other players, he's not being negative and he's working hard in practice. That's what he needs to do."
For the Canadiens it should be Carey Price starting in goal after making 64 saves on 68 shots over his last two outings, a shootout loss in San Jose and a 2-1 win in Los Angeles. Defenseman Frederic St-Denis is out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.
Riding an eight-game winning streak, the Bruins’ last loss was at the Bell Centre when they dropped the second half of a home and home series, 4-2. Since then, Boston has outscored its opponents 42-14 over the course of the streak.
MONTREAL – Here are the potential lineups for tonight’s game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers held an optional skate this morning, so these are the lines they have been practicing with of late.
Myers' spot in the Sabres lineup for their game against the Montreal Canadiens was taken by Mike Weber, who was dressed for the second time all season.
"Some of his decisions haven't been very good," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after the morning skate, though he wouldn't confirm that Myers was scratched. "For Tyler to be better, inside the game he has to make some better decisions."
Myers, 21, is a minus-6 over his last four games, including a minus-3 in Saturday's 6-2 loss in Boston where he made a number of costly giveaways that led directly to Bruins goals.
"It's not good enough for me," Myers said. "I have to be better."
Myers, the Calder Trophy winner two years ago, was signed prior to this season to a 7-year, $38.5 million contract extension that kicks in next season.
"He sure adds a lot to the team," Smyth said. "He's a special player, he's good offensively and he's a power-play guy so that will help. Any time you get a veteran back in the lineup it adds another element."
"With Hemsky coming back in the lineup it gives us that extra look," Eberle said. "Teams are going to have to pick which line they want to focus on. It comes back to depth. It's something that every championship team has, and I feel we have it."
Oilers defenseman Cam Barker will also return after missing three games with a shoulder injury, but coach Tom Renney wouldn't say who will sit out but Colten Teubert remained on the ice for extra work after the morning skate, suggesting he’ll be the one sitting.
Kostitsyn's probable absence for the Canadiens couldn't come at a worse time as he had racked up 4 goals and 2 assists over his past seven games.
Coach Jacques Martin said he will probably dress seven defensemen if Kostitsyn can't play, with Yannick Weber lining up as a forward and rookie Alexei Emelin drawing in on the blue line after sitting out six straight game as a healthy scratch.
MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins appear to be going back to some winning combinations for their game against the rival Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tonight.
Captain Zdeno Chara was paired with his defense partner from last year’s Stanley Cup run, Dennis Seidenberg, at this morning’s skate. If the pairing remains for the game, it would be the first time this season the two have played together.
Julien would not confirm his goaltender, but Tuukka Rask was off the ice first at the morning skate, which normally means he will start over Tim Thomas. If so, Rask would be seeking his first win of the season after losses in his only two starts.
For the Canadiens, coach Jacques Martin made no line changes from his
team’s 2-1 win against the Bruins in Boston on Thursday. In fact he hasn’t touched his lines the past two games, both victories. Carey Price gets the start in goal for Montreal.
MONTREAL -- Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sean Couturier has come home to play his first game in his native Quebec, and he's hoping it won't be his final NHL game of the season.
Couturier will play his ninth game tonight (7 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS), against the Montreal Canadiens, which means his next one will trigger the first year of his entry-level contract.
But Couturier insists that decision is the problem of Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren, and not his.
"I'm still waiting to hear," said Couturier, the eighth pick in the 2011 Entry Draft. "I'm trying to look at it one game at a time, one day at a time, and we'll see what happens."
With the Flyers' next game coming tomorrow at home to the Winnipeg Jets, Holmgren will have to make his decision sometime between the end of the game against the Canadiens and puck drop the next night.
"I don't think they'll base their decision on one game," Couturier said when asked if he felt added pressure because of the circumstances. "I don't know, we'll see what happens."
Coach Peter Laviolette would not shed any light on what Holmgren may be thinking, but there's no denying Couturier quickly has become an important cog on his team. He plays on the top penalty-kill unit with Maxime Talbot and has become a go-to player defensively.
"He's done a good job," Laviolette said. "He came in touted as a smart player defensively, and he's been as good in the defensive zone as he's been in the offensive zone. We put him in situations early on, 5-on-4, 5-on-3, out against other team's top players back in training camp to see how he'd respond, and he's done everything we've asked him to do and he's done it well. Regular season, we've just continued on with that. He's been a nice addition."
Talbot said Couturier reminds him of another 18-year-old high draft pick he played with who made the jump to the NHL right out of junior hockey by excelling in a defensive role.
"Sean Couturier makes me think of Jordan Staal when he arrived with the Penguins," Talbot said. "He's very mature defensively and in his understanding of the game. I think that's the biggest adjustment when you make the jump from junior to the NHL, to understand the game and be smart. He has those qualities."
Couturier is showing improvement in one area where a junior-age player tends to struggle, and that's in the faceoff circle. It's an important skill for a penalty killer to have, and he's clearly getting the hang of it. Through his first five games, Couturier was winning just 34.6 percent of his draws; however, over his past three games, he's won 50 per cent of his faceoffs.
"It's really hard," Couturier said of that particular skill. "My first games I was in the 30s, but you learn to know the players and how strong they are and you learn some tricks the more you play."
Couturier not only will have friends and family in the Bell Centre stands tonight, but his coach with the Drummondvile Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dominic Ricard, will be watching his star player perform.
The two haven't spoken since Couturier's adventure with the Flyers began.
"I think he's happy for me and proud of the Voltigeurs organization," Couturier said. "Their goal is to develop players and coaches. In the past few years I'd say they’ve done a good job."
So good, Couturier is hoping, that the Voltigeurs will have to add another name to their NHL alumni list as soon as Thursday afternoon.
It's unclear how the Flyers' defense will compensate for Pronger's absence, and the pairings listed below can best be described as an educated guess. Still, coach Peter Laviolette said he will have "six good defensemen" in uniform and was confident his team can make up for
The Flyers' forward lines also are a bit of an educated guess seeing as Laviolette did not do line rushes this morning.
For the Canadiens, leading scorer Max Pacioretty was expected to miss the game with torn ligaments in his wrist, but he was on the ice shooting pucks with his teammates, and coach Jacques Martin termed his status as a game-time decision. If he does play, Aaron Palushaj would be scratched.
MONTREAL -- The Canadiens appear ready to welcome back Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed five games with a suspected rib injury. They are also incorporating newly-acquired center Petteri Nokelainen into the lineup on the fourth line, while Sunday call-up Michael Blunden plays beside him.
The Panthers are also incorporating a new player into the lineup as Marco Strum -- acquired Saturday in the trade that sent David Booth to Vancouver -- had his first skate with his new teammates. However, the other piece of that trade, Mikael Samuelsson, did not skate. Samuelsson is still in Vancouver, recovering from a groin injury, and it's not known when he will join his new team. Mike Santorelli will make his season debut Monday after recovering from a shoulder injury.
For the Canadiens, coach Jacques Martin announced that center Scott Gomez will be gone for at least a week with an upper-body injury.
Gomez left a 3-1 loss Thursday night in Pittsburgh in the first period, attempted to come back on the ice and quickly left again. He had an MRI on Friday, but Martin said it is unclear exactly how long he will be missing.
For the Maple Leafs, coach Ron Wilson said center Tyler Bozak is a game-time decision after he stopped a Johnny Boychuk slap shot with his foot in a 6-2 loss Thursday night to the Bruins in Boston. Bozak came out for the morning skate but left quickly, clearly limping on his way to the dressing room.
Wilson said Clarke MacArthur is also a game-time decision with an undisclosed injury, but he took part in the entire skate this morning and looks as though he should be able to play after missing the game in Boston.
"We'll see what happens with the lineup tonight, there are still some decisions to be made," Lombardi said. "I don't want to start talking about it and then it doesn't happen. But I'll be ready to play wherever. We all have to be ready after a tough game last game."
The Canadiens loss of Gomez provides an opportunity for young centers David Desharnais and Lars Eller to take on a more significant role. That's especially true of Eller, a natural center who has always been more comfortable in the middle but who has been stuck on a wing since
his return from shoulder surgery Oct. 13.
"It's sad to see (Gomez) is out, we'll miss him," Eller said. "But it's a big opportunity for me."
Of course, that is subject to change considering Martin used around 25 different line combinations in Pittsburgh as he looks for a way to solve his team's offensive woes.
The Canadiens have scored just 13 goals in six games, with five of those goals coming in one shot in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
The line juggling is a reflection of that lack of offense, but the Canadiens players insist it doesn't bother them even though it would obviously be preferable to give combinations some time to develop chemistry.
"Last game was unique that way, I'll admit it was different," said Michael Cammalleri, who returned to action in Pittsburgh after missing three games with a deep cut on his leg. "But Jacques had a lot of things to juggle, he didn't know how my knee would react and then we lost (Gomez). As a player, the big focus is to not focus on that because I can't control that. I think as an older player I've learned to do that, but it may be a little harder for a younger guy."
Lombardi is not the only member of the Maple Leafs who will be making a homecoming tonight as former Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek will be back in the lineup for Toronto after being a healthy scratch against Boston. He will take the spot of Cody Franson, who was a
minus-3 against the Bruins.
"It's big on a couple of levels for him," said fellow defenseman Luke Schenn. "First of all he used to play here, and he always gets a mixed reaction whenever he comes here. But also, well, all the defensemen want to play well, but I think he really wants to make an imprint on our lineup."
Wilson said he wanted Komisarek to gain some perspective by watching a game from the press box and expects him to come in and play a simple game. But he was clear that lineup decisions on his crowded blue line will be performance-based.
"This is a meritocracy," he said. "If you're playing well, you play."
When the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres meet at the Bell Centre tonight, it might seem like they're looking into a mirror when they stare at the opposing bench.
Except for one major difference -- their respective positions in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Sabres (3-1-0) may be looking down at the Canadiens (1-2-1) at the moment, but it is quite remarkable to see how similarly the two teams are built.
Both had a major influx of new talent over the course of one offseason, both lack a true scoring superstar but have enough depth up front to roll three offensive lines, both have seemingly emphasized speed over size in their forward groups, both have a young, stud defenseman that eats up a lot of minutes, and both count on a world-class goaltender.
"They're a little like us in a sense," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. 'They've got some new pieces, they have an (Erik) Cole who's trying to fit in, they're trying to figure out how to utilize some pieces. They've given up more goals than we've seen in the past, but they have good team speed. They've got some guys from the back end that can join and make some plays. So we have to be aware of certain plays and certain individuals."
The Canadiens have a good deal more urgency about them than the Sabres do, and with good reason. Neither goaltender Carey Price nor defenseman P.K. Subban has gotten off to a strong start to the season, and they've both taken some heat lately for the team's pedestrian record to date.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens' special teams -- normally a strength -- has faltered to the tune of a 20th place ranking for the power play and 23rd on the penalty kill.
And Buffalo is the strongest test the Canadiens have faced so far this season, being their first opponent who qualified for last season's playoffs. But a struggling team has Ruff leery of what the Sabres will face tonight.
"I've read some stuff where they need a better performance out of certain individuals, and I think the pride factor for them at home is going to be a big deal," he said. "We don't want to play like we did in our last home game (a 4-3 loss to Carolina), and I'm sure they don't want to play the way they did their last home game. I think we're going to see a different team."
The Sabres entered the season with heightened expectations after bringing in Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino through free agency and acquiring Robyn Regehr in a trade with the Calgary Flames. Add those players to the acquisition of Brad Boyes at the trade deadline last season and the early-season emergence of rookie center Luke Adam, and the city of Buffalo is buzzing about their Sabres' chances for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
External expectations are one thing; living up to them on the ice is another. Through the early going, the Sabres are doing just that.
"So far I've liked our attitude, but we still have a long way to go," goaltender Ryan Miller said. "But that is also encouraging because I think we have a whole other level of hockey we can play with some attention to detail and getting to know each other a little better with our lines and our (defense) pairings. I think that's a good thing."
And likely a scary thing for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Montreal Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin confirmed Tuesday that injured defenseman Andrei Markov's return to action prior to the end of the month is "out of the question."
Markov is recovering from a second operation to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a span of seven months. He first tore the ligament in Game 1 of the second round of the 2009 playoffs, and then tore it again seven games into his comeback on Nov. 13, 2010.
Renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews performed the most recent surgery, Dec. 8, 2010 in Florida.
Markov traveled to Florida on Oct. 9 to visit with Andrews and remains there, with Martin saying he should spend another week training under his surgeon's watchful eye before returning to Montreal.
"He just needs to build the strength in his leg," Martin said.
Martin said Tuesday that the team is following the doctor's suggestions and that
recovery from a second surgery on the same knee takes longer than the first recovery.
The starting goalies at both ends of the ice will be looking to reach significant milestones when the Montreal Canadiens host the Calgary Flames in their home opener Thursday.
For the Flames, Miikka Kiprusoff will be taking his second shot at passing Mike Vernon to become the franchise leader in wins. They're tied with 262.
"That’s an individual accomplishment that really is a reflection of a team, the team he had in front of him, but also the fact he's a very good goaltender," said Flames coach Brent Sutter. "The one thing is he's constant; he's been very consistent for the most part in how he prepares and everything he does. He's a true professional."
Though getting the record for Kiprusoff is important, the Flames simply are looking to win a game at this point after starting the season with two losses where they allowed five goals in each game.
"We're definitely still upbeat in this room," said captain Jarome Iginla. "But at the same time, we know we need to play better."
At the other end of the ice, the Canadiens' Carey Price will be looking to become the seventh-youngest goalie in League history to reach 100 career wins.
Former Canadien Jocelyn Thibault was 24 years, 32 days old when he got his 100th win to slide into sixth on the list, while Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was 24 years, 91 days old when he hit the milestone.
Fleury will fall to eighth on the list at some point, unless it takes Price more than a month to get another win.
"It's cool to be able to get to 100, but I'd like to get a couple of hundred more," Price said after practice Wednesday. "It shows how many good teams I've played on because you don't win if you're not on a good team."
With the Canadiens and Leafs meeting for the 709th time since 1917, the sense of tradition was that much more poignant. But the focus was shifted toward the present as the members of this 95th edition of the Maple Leafs franchise were introduced to the sellout crowd.
Unfortunately for that crowd, it had to salute one of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions wearing a suit instead of a uniform as Tim Connolly was unable to play due to an upper-body injury suffered in training camp.
After the players were introduced, culminating in a big ovation for team captain Dion Phaneuf, the Canadiens were invited out onto the ice and were roundly booed by the fans -- the visitors took a minute or two to actually emerge, further drawing the ire of the fans.
However, the crowd -- featuring a healthy sprinkling of Canadiens jerseys -- united to sing the national anthem with no accompaniment as a giant Canadian flag was unfurled and passed from fan to fan behind the player benches.
The Maple Leafs and Canadiens both skated today at Air Canada Centre ahead of tonight's game (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS). Here's how their lineups could look tonight based on the lines and defense pairings at today's practice:
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Kulemin – Grabovski – Frattin
Steckel – Dupuis – Armstrong
Rosehill – Lombardi – Brown
It represented the first semblance of competitive hockey for the two coming back from major injuries, and at least for Gorges, it made him a bit uneasy.
"To be honest, there were some nerves last night and this morning about how it was going to be when the checking came in and the speed picked up a little bit," Gorges said. "It was fun to be out there with the guys playing some hockey."
Gorges hasn't played in an NHL game since December, when he damaged the meniscus in his right knee, the same knee that had a torn ACL in it since he has playing junior hockey with the Kelowna Rockets.
BROSSARD, Que. --Michael Cammalleri gave the throngs of Montreal Canadiens fans at the first day of training camp something to cheer about Saturday, scoring the tying goal with less than a minute to play and the winner in the shootout in the first scrimmage of the season.
But the biggest impression was left by Russian defenseman Alexei Yemelin, who laid a number of thunderous hits, most notably a hip check that sent Max Pacioretty spinning into the air. Pacioretty gave Yemelin a dirty look as he got up.
In addition to that, Yemelin made some smart plays with the puck and looked more like a veteran than a player making his North American debut after seven seasons of pro hockey in Russia.
Gomez was on the ice when his group began its first practice session of the day, but he was not out there towards the end.
It is unclear why he left. Gomez did not take the ice for the scrimmage. The Canadiens should provide an update later in the day.
The scrimmage gave the crowd of more than 1,000 people their first chance to watch defenseman Alexei Yemelin in action, seven years after the Canadiens made him the 84th pick in the 2004 Entry Draft. Also, hulking 2010 first round pick Jarred Tinordi was throwing his 6-foot-6, 215-pound body around with a few bone-crunching hits in the early going.
BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens are holding their first day on ice at training camp 2012 on Saturday with 60 of the 64 players here strapping on the skates.
The biggest omissions is defenseman Andrei Markov, who is still recovering from December knee surgery and said Friday he is not sure when he will be able to return. In addition, 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc is not skating as he, too, recovers from May shoulder surgery, and fellow prospects Joonas Nattinen (second round, 2009) and Olivier Fortier (second round, 2007) are also injured.
The Canadiens have split the remaining 60 players into three groups, and the way they've been split is of some interest because each of them feature three forwards that could make up the team's top three lines when the regular season begins.