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Game Day: Canadiens @ Capitals

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens were back to work on Boxing Day for a morning skate before flying to Washington for their game against the Capitals. In a rare occurrence, the Habs are only heading out the morning of the game due to the NHL’s mandatory time off. They’ll land in the American capital with plenty of time to make it to the Verizon Center for the game.

“You come to the rink today and it feels like a new start to the season,” explained Habs captain Max Pacioretty. “That’s a good feeling. Obviously injury-wise with a couple of guys being banged up, that’s the only difference from the beginning of the year. It’s been a mentality of ‘next guy up’ and today is no different. We’ve got to treat it like it’s a new season. This is Game 1. We’ve got to play the right way and it was nice to get out of the rink for a few days.”

- The players enjoyed their time away, but they weren’t the only ones who unplugged from hockey for a few days after landing back in the city from Minnesota.

“Honestly, I mostly watched a lot of Netflix. I watched 19-2. It was really good. On Christmas Day, I went through my closet and brought some of my old clothes to donate to l’accueil Bonneau,” explained Michel Therrien, who didn’t mention whether or not his famous yellow blazer from his first stint behind the Habs bench made it into the donation pile for the local homeless shelter. “I had a chance to meet some of the volunteers there. I felt good about that.”

- Despite his day of good deeds, Therrien admits he did spend part of his time off thinking about his team’s play of late.

“Our confidence isn’t there. What we did over the first 10 games of the season proved what we’re capable of doing. But we played better over the last 10 games in terms of our structure and systems than we did in those first 10 games of the season,” underlined the Habs bench boss, who has also been impressed with his team’s ability to generate scoring chances recently. “We’re doing good things, but the results aren’t there. Confidence can change quickly. When things are going well, people start thinking about the parade. When we’re not having as much success, everyone is bad all of a sudden. You have to stay even keel and look at things objectively.”

- Brendan Gallagher joined his teammates on the ice for practice on Saturday morning, donning a light blue “no contact” jersey. Gallagher, Tom Gilbert (lower body), and Carey Price (lower body) will not join the Canadiens for the trip to Washington as they continue their respective rehab routines. The team confirmed that Gilbert would not take part in the team’s next four games, although Gallagher could take part in a game sooner than later.

“There’s a small chance that Brendan will join us at some point on the trip,” shared Therrien. “He’ll meet with the doctors over the next few days and they’ll make the decision after that.”

- Defenseman Jeff Petry, who missed the team’s last two games with an upper body injury suffered on December 19, was back at practice and has been given the green light to return against Washington.

“Everything feels good and as far as I know, I’m back in tonight. It’s a big challenge. It’s good coming off the three days off to put everything aside and come up with a fresh start moving forward,” mentioned Petry. “It was good timing to have a couple of days off, spend some time with the family, get out of the rink and enjoy the holidays.”

- The Habs put in a little extra work on the power play during the morning skate. During the recent road trip to Dallas, Nashville, and Minnesota, Therrien was working four forwards on the man advantage, pairing David Desharnais with P.K. Subban on the point.

“I see my position as being more on the half-wall than on the point so you have guys on both sides on the power play. We need some goals, so obviously we have to change some things,” explained Desharnais. “The idea is to use the whole ice so we can be a threat from both sides with guys like [Max] Pacioretty or [Alex] Galchenyuk ready to fire one-timers.”

- The Canadiens will be looking to snap their current five-game losing streak against one of the NHL’s hottest teams. Prior to the Christmas break, the Capitals had won six in a row and 13 of their last 15 games. Defenseman John Carlson has picked up points in his last seven games, racking up two goals and six assists in that span.

- Therrien confirmed that Mike Condon would get his 21st start of the season on Saturday night in Washington.

- Puck drop at the Verizon Center is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST and is available on CBC, TVA Sports, CITY and NHLN-US.

Lines and D pairings at practice

Pacioretty-Desharnais-Weise
Eller-Galchenyuk-Carr
Fleischmann-Plekanec-Byron
Flynn-Mitchell-Smith-Pelly
Andrighetto

Beaulieu-Subban
Markov-Petry
Emelin-Pateryn

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