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Posted On Tuesday, 12.16.2014 / 2:08 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Hurricanes at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Carolina Hurricanes face a tough task Tuesday in taking on the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Carolina saw its losing streak reach five games after a 5-1 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Hurricanes coach Bill Peters sees hope though, despite his team's 8-18-3 record.

"Obviously we didn't like our effort in Philadelphia," Peters said after Carolina's morning skate. "We've probably had two or three like that this year where we've been disappointed with ourselves, but other than that we've played well and it's been a one-goal game with five minutes to go one way or the other just about every night, so you're in every game and you've got to find a way to make that one more play to make a difference."

Hurricanes center Jay McClement and defenseman John-Michael Liles are game-time decisions because of illness. Peters said neither player is at risk of the mumps, which have sidelined a number of NHL players this season, including Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

"It's obviously a scare for everybody in the League, but that's not the issue," said Peters, who will dress seven defensemen and play one as a forward if both McClement and Liles are unable to play.

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Posted On Friday, 12.12.2014 / 2:06 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Kings at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Anze Kopitar and the Los Angeles Kings are ready to face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Friday.

Kopitar scored his first goal in 11 games Thursday and Los Angeles ended a two-game losing streak with a 5-3 win at the Ottawa Senators.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter acknowledged Kopitar's lack of offensive production recently is cause for concern.

"Sure it is. (Kopitar's) a point-per-game guy," Sutter said. "He's still our most complete forward in terms of the whole package, but at the same time you want him feeling good about his game and his numbers too, and how he's playing, so I was the happiest guy in Ottawa last night to see (Kopitar) score."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 2:09 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canucks at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu will get another crack at establishing himself in the NHL against the Vancouver Canucks at Bell Centre on Tuesday.

Beaulieu was recalled from Hamilton of the American Hockey League on Monday with Mike Weaver out with a concussion and Bryan Allen sidelined by the flu.

Montreal coach Michel Therrien says it's up to Beaulieu to show that he's ready to stay in the League.

"It's always the player that makes the decision by the way he performs," Therrien said. "We hope he will play well, that he'll be responsible, as much with the puck as without the puck. He's a young player who at the beginning of the season had opportunities to play and he had some difficulty, so the fact that he went to Hamilton was good for his confidence.

"I spoke with him this morning. To play in the NHL, you have to be responsible. You can continue to develop a player as long as he is responsible. You can't be high-risk and causing turnovers, not be able to defend well, and hope to have a long career in the NHL. It's impossible, so that's the foundation of any player and it has to be solid, and after that you can continue to develop. If your foundation isn't solid, then it becomes difficult. That's one of the reasons we returned him to Hamilton and so we'll see how he handles himself."

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Posted On Saturday, 11.29.2014 / 5:43 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Sabres at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Gionta will play his first game at Bell Centre on Saturday since leaving the Montreal Canadiens as a free agent, but former Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges will not be ready to face his former team as he had hoped.

Gionta spent five seasons with the Canadiens and was captain for the past four. He had 97 goals and 173 points in 303 games with Montreal.

"It's a little weird coming in, but I think coming for game time it will be a little different," said Gionta, who did not take part in Buffalo's optional skate in the wake of the Sabres' 2-1 win against the Canadiens on Friday.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.20.2014 / 1:42 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blues at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens face another stiff test Thursday when they play the St. Louis Blues at Bell Centre.

Montreal has a 14-5-1 record and the most points in the NHL with 29 despite a 4-0 loss Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the Metropolitan Division.

St. Louis, which has won 10 of 12, is second in the Central Division at 12-5-1 and 25 points.

"They're a big strong physical team and they're good in the faceoff dot which means that they start with the puck a lot," said Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty, who is celebrating his 26th birthday Thursday. "But it looks like our team's been doing well in faceoffs this year and I think that might be a big factor in a game against a team like this. If we let them start with the puck every time and they're a big strong team, it's tough to get it back from them so we've got to find a way to help our centermen win draws and then win those battles for loose pucks."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.18.2014 / 1:50 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Penguins at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will return to the lineup against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday two weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

Maatta had surgery Nov. 4 to remove the tumor from his thyroid gland. The 20-year-old Finn started skating again a week ago, but the original prognosis was for him to miss about four weeks.

"I didn't think it would be this quick," Maatta said. "I have to thank the doctors and the team staff for doing their best. I'm excited to be back."

Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston confirmed Maatta's return following the morning skate at Bell Centre.

"He didn't feel he was sharp last week skating," Johnston said. "He probably could have even played a couple of days earlier, but he wanted to get his quickness down, wanted to get his puck movement down. He looked really good (Monday) in practice. We know he's ready to go right now. He's going to be a big boost for our team. He's a quality defenseman. He's a young guy, but he's added a lot to our team through the first part of the season."

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Posted On Thursday, 11.13.2014 / 12:57 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Bruins at Canadiens

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Sergei Gonchar felt full bore Thursday the glare of the media spotlight that comes with being a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

Gonchar, who was acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, skated with his new teammates for the first time at the Canadiens' suburban practice complex before the game against the Boston Bruins at Bell Centre.

The 40-year-old defenseman joins a defense corps that includes fellow Russians Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. Gonchar said he never had experienced press coverage after a practice like the phalanx of reporters, microphones and cameras that surrounded him at his dressing room stall.

"I think I've heard [Gonchar] talk more than [Markov] and [Emelin] in about two hours here, so I think he'll be OK with talking," Canadiens right wing Dale Weise said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.11.2014 / 1:06 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Jets at Canadiens

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller hopes to keep things clicking with linemates Brandon Prust and Jiri Sekac against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday at Bell Centre.

Eller and Sekac each had a goal and an assist in Montreal's 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Prust assisted on both goals as the new line combined for six points.

"If there's good puck movement between you and you know where the guy next to you is going to go and what he's going to do, that's all about chemistry, knowing what each other's going to do before you get the puck," Eller said. "I think we had some of that last game, and I've played with (Prust) in the past and it just seems to be a good mix together, at least from what we saw last game, and we've had that in practice too."

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Posted On Saturday, 11.08.2014 / 2:08 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Wild at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- With the Montreal Canadiens set to retire Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Guy Lapointe's No. 5 jersey, the Minnesota Wild could use skills like his to get their struggling power play going.

Lapointe, who is Minnesota's coordinator of amateur scouting, has worked for the Wild since 1999. He won the Stanley Cup six times with the Canadiens, who will retire his jersey in a ceremony prior to the game against Minnesota on Saturday.

Wild defenseman Marco Scandella grew up in Montreal.

"I'm super happy for Guy," said Scandella, who is the nephew of former Canadiens forward Sergio Momesso. "What a legend in Montreal. Six Stanley Cups, unbelievable defenseman, he played in some golden years of the Canadiens and it's just special to be here to witness that. I was too young to see him play, but he's just a great person. I met him at the [NHL] draft in 2008 and every time I see him he just talks to you like you're a regular guy and like he's a regular guy. But you know in the back of your mind he's one of the legends of this city. We're really happy to have him in our organization and everyone is super proud of him getting his number retired."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.04.2014 / 2:12 PM

By Sean Farrell - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blackhawks vs. Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens are each consolidating their big guns to get themselves back on track Tuesday at Bell Centre.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has put superstar forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on a line with Ben Smith. Toews and Kane each have eight points in 12 games.

"These guys should be leading our offense and usually you like them spread to give us more of a balanced attack," Quenneville said. "But putting them back together, I think they like playing together and right now we are looking for a little more scoring. There are some other parts of our game that have been positive, but a consistent attack, and how we play, I think we can enhance by getting some more scoring."

The Blackhawks have scored two goals or fewer in six of their past seven games while going 2-5-0. A 1-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday marked the second consecutive loss by that score.

"We've never had a lack of production like we've had over a stretch here, so we're looking for some consistency on the offensive side of things," Quenneville said. "We think we're giving up a consistent amount defensively, but we're looking for some offense."

Montreal coach Michel Therrien is reuniting defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov. Subban had been paired mostly with Alexei Emelin through Montreal's first 12 games. Emelin will swap spots with Markov and pair up with Tom Gilbert.

"At the end of the day, I've said it at the start of training camp, I'm comfortable playing with any D-man on our team," Subban said. "It doesn't change anything for me. Obviously we still need to play a tight-checking game. We want to stay out of the box and be disciplined. Obviously, playing together [with Markov], there's a lot of chemistry there in terms of us playing on the power play and we've had a lot of success when we've played together, so that's always great to know, but by the same token, whether I'm with [Jarred Tinordi], [Mike Weaver] or [Gilbert], you want to make sure you're playing the right way."

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