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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.

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."

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."

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.

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."

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."

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."

Posted On Sunday, 11.02.2014 / 2:45 PM

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

At the Rink: Flames at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley will be able to put his limited knowledge of the Swiss-German language to rare use Sunday at Bell Centre.

Calgary will have three players from Switzerland in its lineup for the game against the Montreal Canadiens, including forward Sven Baertschi, who was recalled from Adirondack of the American Hockey League on Sunday.

Goalie Jonas Hiller will make his fifth straight start and former Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz returns after he was left out of the Flames lineup for the past five games.

"To have them [play] together, I think there are a lot Swiss people who are going to be very happy, and they deserve to be because they work really well with their youngsters," said Hartley, who coached the Zurich-based ZSC Lions to Switzerland's National League A championship in 2012 before he was hired by Calgary.

Posted On Saturday, 10.25.2014 / 2:44 PM

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

At the Rink: Rangers at Canadiens

MONTREAL -- It promises to be an emotional night at Bell Centre when the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens play Saturday for the first time since the Eastern Conference Final last season.

The Rangers won the series in six games before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

"They definitely have a skilled group over there," Montreal forward Max Pacioretty said of the Rangers. "And they have a little bit different team than they had last year but they're a young team like us now, a lot of young guys who are trying to make a name for themselves in the League, and I think we have the same identity as them. We want to pay a fast game and obviously we weren't happy with the results last year and we have a lot to prove now."

Goaltender Carey Price will make his sixth straight start for the Canadiens. It will be the first time he has faced the Rangers since he was knocked out of the series with a knee injury sustained in Game 1 when New York forward Chris Kreider slid into him.

Pacioretty said the two points at stake Saturday are too crucial for the Canadiens to single out Kreider or any special attention.

Posted On Tuesday, 10.21.2014 / 2:00 PM

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

At the Rink: Red Wings at Canadiens

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk may be playing out of position when he makes his season debut Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Datsyuk lined up at left wing at the Red Wings' morning skate at Bell Centre in Montreal, with Henrik Zetterberg at center and Justin Abdelkader on the right side.

Even Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was caught off guard by Datsyuk's position change.

"That was a bit of a surprise for me this morning," Babcock said after confirming Datsyuk would be in the lineup.

Datsyuk played coy when asked if he'll play left wing during the game.

"It's a secret," Datsyuk said. "We try to switch. I need work. I'll play center too."

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