RALEIGH – The Habs have built a reputation on responding well to tough losses and their tilt against Carolina will be another chance to prove it.
When the Canadiens dropped a 6-0 decision to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs on February 9, they responded by storming back with a five-game win streak and picking up points in 11 consecutive games. While their Tuesday night loss to the Islanders may not have been quite as emotional, the Habs know there’s no better way to right that wrong than by bringing the Hurricanes’ four-game winning streak to crashing halt by starting one of their own.
“We talked a lot since the beginning of the season about the importance of responding well. We have to think about the right way to rebound from every loss. We’re obviously not happy about certain aspects of our game in New York and tonight our opportunity to bounce back,” said defenseman Josh Gorges, who along with the rest of the Canadiens’ rearguards will be paying extra attention to supporting their goalie on Thursday night. “We need to be able stop allowing those second and third chances from being available. We know that Carey [Price] is going to make that first save, but it’s up to us to clean things up in front of him.”
Squaring off against the Hurricanes for a second time this season after shutting them out 3-0 in their first meeting in Montreal, the Habs are prepared to deal with the challenge of a hot Carolina squad and its familiar head coach.
“We know their style of play. They’re a team that works hard and always tries to be the aggressor,” continued Gorges, who played under Kirk Muller during the former Hab’s five seasons as assistant coach in Montreal. “They have two players forechecking and defensemen that work hard to keep the puck in the offensive zone. They’re a group that doesn’t allow much time or space. That’s sort of Kirk Muller’s style of play and we’re ready for it.”
In their quest to topple the ‘Canes, the Canadiens will look to mix things up a bit with the reintroduction of Yannick Weber into Thursday night’s lineup. The Swiss-born blue-liner will team up with Francis Bouillon for the tilt at the PNC Arena.
“It’s been hard to get back into the lineup with the team winning this much, but at the same time, I’ve been staying positive, I’m in great shape, I feel confident about myself and now that I’m playing, I hope I can contribute, too,” shared Weber, who last suited up for the Habs in a January 27 win over the New Jersey Devils. “There are definitely situations and battles in a game that you can’t reproduce in practice, so I’m just going to take it shift by shift and work my way back in.”
While the Habs have clearly been enjoying their success from the first half of the season, the flip side of being the conference’s top team is that it places a target squarely on their backs. With Boston and Toronto nipping at their heels with 31 and 30 points respectively, the Canadiens know they have little room for error, no matter what their opponents might throw their way.
“We been getting good results since the beginning of the season and other teams know it. They’re raising their game a notch now when they play us and tonight should be another good challenge,” pointed out Colby Armstrong, who logged 10:26 of ice time during the game in Uniondale. “It’s good to know that teams respect us and are aware that we’re going to be battling hard for the entire 60 minutes. We know that we’re going to see the best every team has to offer when they face us, but at the same time, the most important thing is for us to concentrate on our own game.”
With Cam Ward sidelined with a sprained MCL in his left knee, the Canadiens will look to hand call-up Justin Peters a loss in his second game of the season with Carolina.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
Words from the room: March 7, 2013
Can’t win ‘em all