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Game Day - Blackhawks - December 5

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens practiced at the United Center ahead of their game against the Blackhawks on Friday.

- Drayson Bowman joined his teammates on the ice on Friday morning in Chicago after being called up by the Canadiens on Thursday night.

- Carey Price will get his 22nd start of the season on Friday night, looking for his first win on United Center ice, having dropped his lone appearance against the Blackhawks in Chicago on October 30, 2009.

- Coming off a disappointing loss to the Wild, the Habs will look to reverse their fortunes against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Owning an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games, the Hawks have been playing their best hockey of the season, especially the line of Patrick Kane, Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg, who have combined for 39 points (16 G, 23 A) in that span.

“It’s going to be tough. They have some great players on that team and they’re playing well. That line of Kane, Richards and Versteeg has been hot of late,” admitted P.K. Subban, who will be joined by Andrei Markov in looking to keep that trio off the scoresheet on Friday, “For us, it’s not so much focusing on key players as much as it is focusing on our team system and how we want to play. It’s going to come down to execution and paying attention to detail. The small things are going to make the difference in the game: getting pucks out of the zone, making sure we’re not turning it over at key times and making sure we’re getting bodies in front of the net. Whether they have the best goalie in the league in net or not, it’s hard to score goals in the NHL without traffic in front. We have to focus on doing those little things tonight. That will make the difference.”

- Looking to spark some offense of his own on Friday, Michel Therrien will reunite Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais with Dale Weise against the Blackhawks. In their 46:35 ice time together as a unit this season, the line has a plus-4 differential, and enjoys the best goals-for per 60 minutes of ice time on the team, with 7.7.

“He’s patient with the puck, he’s a great skater, and he’s a funny guy so he keeps things loose,” explained Desharnais on what Weise brings to their threesome. “Usually when he moves to our line it’s because we haven’t been producing, and we’re gripping the sticks a little tight and he lightens the mood. It seems every time he’s with us, it pays off.”

- In addition to the Blackhawks’ offensive prowess of late, the team has also proved to be stingy defensively in 2014-15, currently leading the NHL in goals-against per game at 1.96 while also owning the best penalty kill efficiency in the league at a stellar 92%.

“They have a lot of skill back there and their defensemen like to join the rush," described Pacioretty. "I think the reason why they’re so good defensively is that they’re always playing on offense. We need to find a way to counter-attack them and use our speed.”

- After a tough start against Minnesota that saw the Canadiens get outshot 30-10 through the first 40 minutes, Therrien wasn’t shy about what he’s hoping to see from his players against Chicago.

“That their skates are done up from the start, not just in the third period,” he joked.

- Therrien also confirmed that Mike Weaver would be back in the lineup on Friday after being a healthy scratch against the Wild on Wednesday.

“We want him to be better, and that’s one of the reasons he wasn’t in the lineup [in Minnesota]. We want to see him respond,” shared the Habs bench boss, whose 36-year-old blue-liner leads all Canadiens players with 51 blocked shots and 3:18 shorthanded ice time per game. “We expect more from Mike than the way he’s played recently because we know what he can bring to the lineup. Sometimes, sitting out can help a player. We hope he bounces back strong.”

   
Lines and defense pairings at practice

Pacioretty-Desharnais-Weise
Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Gallagher
Sekac-Eller-Parenteau
Prust-Malhotra-Tangradi

Markov-Subban
Gonchar-Emelin
Gilbert-Weaver/Allen

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