TORONTO – Looking at the calendar at the beginning of the season, few people could have predicted the final game between the Habs and the Leafs would hold so much significance.
In the day leading up to the end-of-season showdown between these rival teams, Michel Therrien took the opportunity to give a much needed day off to the better part of his players after arriving in Toronto late the previous night. Only a handful of Habs wound up making the trip to the Leafs’ training facility, the MasterCard Centre, to take part in a few drills. A total of nine players suited up for practice, including goaltender Peter Budaj, who hit the ice under the supervision of assistant coaches Pierre Groulx and Pierre Allard.
Among those players, both Colby Armstrong and Jarred Tinordi looked to get a little work in before a Saturday night match-up at the Air Canada Centre that will mean a lot to both of them, but for decidedly different reasons.
|Practice at the MasterCard Centre |
“I was originally expecting to join the team on Sunday, so getting the call earlier was a bit of a surprise, but a nice surprise,” said Tinordi, who was given the opportunity to show what he could bring to the table earlier than expected, and came through with an assist and seven hits in 15:40 of ice time.
“I’m not even really thinking about the playoffs right now and just taking things one game at a time,” added the 6-foot-6 rearguard. “My goal on Thursday night was to bring a physical presence to the lineup, play solidly and show the kind of game I can have. In that sense, I think I turned in a good game. All I’m looking to do now is to keep improving with every game I play.”
Teammate Colby Armstrong had nothing but praise for the young blue-liner when the subject of his return to the team was brought up following Friday’s practice.
"He's a big body and for a young kid he's pretty poised out there and can make some pretty plays. He's rangy and he's got that reach,” expressed the right-winger. “Offensively he can get shots through and even defensively, he bangs hard. He got seven hits last game, so hats off to the way he played – he was a big part of that win."
For Armstrong, going up against his former team in the highly anticipated final game of the season – one that could potentially set up a first-round series between the clubs – would be the extra shot of confidence the Habs need before the puck drops for the playoffs.
"It was nice getting home-ice from that win yesterday and to not leave it to the last game of the season. But more than anything, we're happy with the step we took within our game,” he continued. “Considering the game we have tomorrow and the fact that we might be facing them, we'll need to take another step when we play them on Saturday.
"I think obviously both teams want to be playing their best hockey heading into the playoffs no matter who they're going up against,” added Armstrong, who will play in his third game back on Saturday after missing 10 contests with a knee injury. “It's a definite possibility that we'll be going up against each other, so this makes it feel like it's not just another game at the end of the year."
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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