BROSSARD – The Canadiens’ Friday morning practice didn’t end on the best note for Alexei Emelin.
Scary moment: The Habs had a tense moment at the end of their Friday morning skate, when during one of the practice’s final drills, an errant puck caught defenseman Alexei Emelin in the face, dropping him to the ice. After a few minutes of being tended to by the Canadiens medical staff as Andrei Kostitsyn played translator, Emelin was helped to the dressing room, the side of his face rapidly swelling.
“He took a puck high and we’re hoping that it’s not serious. He’s a little bit swollen right now,” explained head coach Randy Cunneyworth after practice. While he made it clear that he was still waiting to receive further information on the Russian rearguard’s condition, he offered up as much initial information as possible.
“If he had to take one, I think that it at least caught him in a bit of a meaty area, rather than right on the bone. So as I said, there’s swelling but he also seems to be in good spirits and smiling now,” continued Cunneyworth. “So we’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow after tending to it with some ice. He wasn’t cut externally, but there was some bleeding from the inside of his mouth. He’s an extremely tough guy, so you can bet if he can play, you’ll see him out there.”
Back at the helm: With Brian Gionta looking at Saturday night’s tilt against the Lightning as his likely return to the lineup, the Canadiens couldn’t have asked for a better time to get their captain back. Looking to stay undefeated in 2012, the Habs will hope that Gionta’s presence in the room and on the ice can help them stabilize their top lines and keep their momentum rolling against Tampa Bay.
“This has been a tough two or three weeks for us – a lot of things went on and it was hard having to watch that from the outside. I’m really anxious to get back,” said Gionta, the Canadiens leading goal scorer for the last two seasons with 28 goals in 2009-10 and another 29 in 2010-11. “I still have to talk to the trainers but I definitely felt good out there today. Obviously the injury was a little worse than we had thought at first – it’s just one of those things you have to take care of, but there’s still half the season left and it’ll be a good time to come back.
“This is our time to make a big push,” added Gionta. “This time of the year usually decides whether you’re going to be in contention or not at the end of the season.”
Through the mask: Even though Lars Eller’s spin-o-rama penalty shot came and went two days ago, talk of it was still popping up around the Canadiens dressing room Friday morning. Offering a different perspective on the goal, Habs’ netminder, Peter Budaj couldn’t help but admit he felt a little bit bad for the Jets’ Chris Mason.
“It’s never an easy thing for a goaltender when someone pulls a rabbit like that out of their hat on you,” expressed Budaj. “It takes a lot of confidence to try that move. If you can successfully make a deke like that, in situation that situation, towards the end of a game when the ice isn’t great – then congratulations. I feel a kind of bad for the other goalie, but we won and that’s all that matters. We’re a family here before anything else.”
The 29-year-old goaltender also made sure to point out that it’s not always the shooter that comes out on top in similar situations.
“At the beginning of the season, Stamkos tried the same thing on Jose Theodore,” recalled Budaj. “Jose made the save. Then he sort of gestured toward Stamkos as if to say, ‘Did you really think that was going to work?’.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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