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Game Day - Blue Jackets - February 21

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday ahead of their tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre.

- P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk were the only players absent from practice.

- Although Subban benefited from a therapy day away from the ice in Brossard, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed following practice that the star defenseman will be in the lineup to face Columbus.

- Alex Galchenyuk meanwhile, currently sidelined with the flu, will not dress opposite the Jackets. He’ll be replaced up front by Manny Malhotra for a second consecutive outing, leaving Thursday’s lineup against the Panthers intact.

- Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar will also be out of the lineup for a second and fourth game, respectively on Saturday, giving the next guys in a line another opportunity to prove themselves with the big club.

“We haven’t had a lot of injuries this year, but it’s going to come at some point,” acknowledged Lars Eller, who has seen his team on pace for its healthiest season in over six years with just 56 man-games lost so far. “Right now we’re in that situation with a couple of D guys out, but we’re lucky to have such good young guys that are ready to step in and I think they did an amazing job – [Jarred] Tinordi and [Greg] Pateryn – last game and everybody’s confident that they can keep it up moving forward.”

Even the young guns themselves called up as reinforcements for a pair of seasoned vets share that confidence heading into the weekend.

“This is our chance. It’s a good opportunity for us to show what we can do. It’s tough for defensemen, but I’m just playing my game and doing whatever I can to help the team win,” underlined Tinordi, who ate up 11:39 of ice time in his 2015 Canadiens debut on Thursday. “The big thing for me is consistency. I have to prepare for each game like it’s my last one. I need to play hard and have fun out there.”

Fortunately for Tinordi, the 23-year-old rearguard will have a familiar friend to lean on who knows a thing or two about making a good impression when he makes his eleventh career start with the Habs on Saturday.

“We all look out for each other. Even though we all have the same goal, we all want to be bonafide NHL players,” confessed Nathan Beaulieu, who spent three seasons with Tinordi in Hamilton before finally sticking in Montreal through 43 games this season. “We all help each other. We pick each other up when we’re down. There have been a lot of highs and lows for us over the last two and a half seasons and we’ve always been there for each other.”

- Despite firing a season-high 44 shots on goal against the Senators on Wednesday followed by another 39 opposite the Panthers on Thursday, the Habs have only found the back of the net four times over their pair of most recent outings.

While he’d like to see more goals, Coach Therrien was nevertheless able to identify the positives in his team’s increased offensive efforts despite picking up just a single point across two back-to-back losses.

“I appreciate the effort our players are showing. I like the number of pucks we’re putting on goal and the number of scoring chances we’re creating. As a coach I can’t ask for more,” admitted the Habs bench boss. “We had 20 scoring chances last game while giving up just nine. Usually you win those games and while we came out on the wrong side on Thursday, I think we played well and need to keep at it.”

The Habs will have the opportunity to do just that and reverse their fortunes in front of the net against a Blue Jackets team which arrives in Montreal allowing the fifth-most goals per game with an average of 3.07.

“We need to get more shots from the inside. We’ve been getting a lot from the outside, but we’ve got to get in front of the goalie to take his eyes away, get rebounds and score dirty goals,” prescribed Lars Eller. “[Brendan] Gallagher got two of those last game, and often those are the ones that go in. We all have to get in there and win those battles in the crease. I think that’s where it starts.”

- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST at the Bell Centre on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on City Montreal and TVA Sports.

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