OTTAWA – Just when it looked as though the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens couldn't get much more heated, a potentially explosive ingredient is likely to re-enter the fray.
Senators defenseman Eric Gryba served the second game of his two-game suspension for a hit that injured Canadiens center Lars Eller and is available to play in Game 4 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, CNBC).
Gryba watched from the press box as the teams combined for 236 penalty minutes and 14 fights in Game 3, and said he is hoping the same intensity will be there if he plays Tuesday night.
"I'd be disappointed if it wasn't a physical game. Tensions are high, and guys are going to lay it on the line," Gryba said after taking part in the Senators optional practice Monday. "It was a very entertaining hockey game. It was hard not to be involved."
The likelihood of Gryba playing increased significantly when Senators coach Paul MacLean reported defenseman Patrick Wiercioch is out with a lower-body injury. He said he expects Gryba to bring the same qualities to the table as he has in the past.
"We just want him to come back in the lineup and pick up where he left off and be who he is," MacLean said. "We don't want him to try to be more than he is. He's a big, strong guy who can play physical and he can dominate the middle of the rink. We want to make sure he continues to do that."
While Gryba said he is prepared for the possibility of being targeted, the Canadiens have bigger concerns.
"There's too much on the line to be worrying about revenge," said Canadiens rookie forward Brendan Gallagher, who was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy on Monday.
The Canadiens addressed many of the incidents from Game 3, including P.K. Subban who explained what made him go after Kyle Turris in the third period, earning him instigator, instigator with a visor, fighting and game misconduct penalties.
"He cross-checked me," Subban said. "So I asked him to go, and it didn't matter if he wanted to or not, we were going to go."
Turris was the target of a lot of the Canadiens' frustration in Game 3, taking a high hit from Rene Bourque and having a Josh Gorges slap shot in the dying seconds aimed right at him and hitting him in the leg.
"I don't think he was trying to dump it in for a forecheck," Turris said.
Turris said he and Subban have played with and against each other in tournaments and summer hockey teams since the age of 10, and what he saw from the Canadiens defenseman Sunday night was exactly the same as what he's seen his whole life.
"He was like that back then, he was like that at world juniors and he's like that now," Turris said.
The antics in the third period of Game 3 are what goaltender Carey Price said the Canadiens need to avoid in Game 4 if they want a chance to head back to Montreal with the series tied 2-2.
"I think we need to keep our focus on winning the hockey game and not trying so much to win a physical battle," Price said. "Obviously that's part of the game, but we've got to make sure we're keeping our focus on our style."
The Canadiens did admit they let their emotions and frustrations get the better of them in the third period of Game 3 and most mentioned the need to get those negative emotions out of their game.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien blamed some of the frustration of his team on the fact officials were letting a lot of "abuse" go uncalled, particularly when it comes to Subban and Gallagher, two players not known as fighters who decided to drop the gloves in that crazy third period. Both players were clearly targeted throughout the game, taking a number of hits and receiving post-whistle visits from the Senators.
"When Brendan Gallagher has to drop his gloves, it's because he's taking abuse," Therrien said. "When P.K. Subban drops the gloves, it's because he's being abused. A player's going to want to take the law into his own hands at one point."
While Therrien openly called on the officials to be more vigilant, he knows his own team needs to do the same.
"It's a very interesting series," Therrien said. "But for us, we need to concentrate on playing hockey."
However, Subban warned against the risk of completely losing all emotion, something he labeled a strength of his team.
"I think you're in control of your actions and you have to remain in control," Subban said. "This is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it gets emotional. But I think that's what makes our team so good, we're an emotional team. We play with that chippy edge every night. If you watch our team, when we're successful is when we're hard on the forecheck, when we're on top of you in all three zones. That's a part of being emotional and being engaged."
While it appears as though the Senators grabbed all the momentum with their big win in Game 3, MacLean still saw areas of his team's game that could be better as he expects Montreal to come back with a far better effort in Game 4.
"We have to be better," he said, "because it gets harder."
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