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Pride on the line

Claude Julien expects his group to work from start to finish on Saturday night against Toronto, and bounce back in a big way

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - Falling to the Arizona Coyotes was a bitter disappointment, but the Canadiens have a perfect opportunity to rebound on Saturday night.

That's when the streaking Toronto Maple Leafs - who've won five straight games - pay a visit to the Bell Centre, looking to hand the Canadiens their third consecutive loss.

Finding a way to best the league's third-ranked team in the standings would obviously go a long way towards erasing any and all memories of coming up short against a Coyotes squad that just picked up its first regulation win of the season and currently sits last.

"It's a good challenge. It could be a good bounce back game for us, if we can find a way to play good and get a win," said Karl Alzner, following Friday's practice at the Bell Sports Complex. "That would be a good pat on the back, and then we can really forget about the game [against Arizona] and losing the game before [to Columbus]. That's what we're really looking forward to right now."

Likewise, head coach Claude Julien expects his club to hit the ice eager to make up for a less-than-stellar final 40 minutes against Rich Tocchet's contingent, that saw them surrender five goals en route to a 5-4 defeat on home turf.

"It gives this group an opportunity to show some character and show that the game was unacceptable and they want to redeem themselves," said Julien, after running his charges through a workout on the South Shore. "No matter what, we need to bounce back from a bad game. I would expect us to have some pride and bounce back."

Video: Claude Julien's press conference

Putting together a full 60-minute performance would certainly help in that department, of course. 

"There are a few little details of the game that we've got to clean up, a couple of sloppy minutes of hockey [against Arizona] and we paid the price for it," explained Alzner. "We took our foot off the gas against a team that people talk about not being that great, but every team can be good when they work the way they did [on Thursday night]. We just need to have a better answer in the second and the third than we did."

The Canadiens aren't about to let another lacklustre performance rattle their confidence, though, even if doubt can inevitably creep its way in following an outing like that.

"That's something that's tough, but then it's on each guy to try and block that out and figure out a way to get better," mentioned Alzner. "I think we're a pretty positive group of guys, pretty good at picking each other up, so we've got to rely on one another and just get back to that fun. Every team that's good has a little bit of swagger to it. We just have to get a little bit of swagger right now."

Handing the likes of their Atlantic Division rivals their first loss since November 4 would be an emphatic start. It would also bring the Canadiens to within one game of reaching the .500 mark.

"You only have so much time to get yourself into the race, so it would be nice to at least be in the talks right now. I don't think we're doing that," said Alzner, referencing the club's 8-10-2 record so far this year. "We have some games where I think teams really respect our play and then we have other games where I think it's just like - 'Meh' - and that's kind of where we're at right now."

Video: Jeff Petry on sticking to the system

Mike Babcock's squad could potentially have some additional firepower in their lineup on Saturday night in Auston Matthews. The 20-year-old sniper hasn't seen game action since November 6 with an upper-body injury, but he will likely be a game-time decision for the Original Six matchup.

It remains to be seen if Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin and Jordie Benn will be good to go for the Canadiens. All three players were absent from practice on Friday with the flu.

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