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Game Day – Capitals – December 3

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional skate on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre. Thirteen players hit the ice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, including goaltenders Mike Condon and Zachary Fucale.

- Head coach Michel Therrien isn’t expected to feature any lineup changes on Thursday night. That means that forward Daniel Carr and defenseman Greg Pateryn will be healthy scratches.

- Forward Michael Bournival cleared waivers on Thursday. He can now be assigned to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.

- The Capitals’ most lethal forward since being drafted in 2004, Alex Ovechkin remains a constant threat on offense, specifically when he goes up against the Canadiens. The Russian superstar boasts 38 points in 36 career games against the CH. This year, Washington’s No. 8 has amassed at least one point per game, registering 12 goals and 22 points in as many outings.

“I grew up in Moscow playing for the same team he did,” mentioned Alex Galchenyuk. “I grew up watching him play. Now, I’ve had the chance to play against him for the last few years. The first time was even more special. You get used to it over time, but he’s still a dangerous player when he’s on the ice.”

Ovechkin scored a pair of goals in his last visit to the Bell Centre on April 2 in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Canadiens. He’d actually been held off the scoresheet in the two meetings before that, though. On a side note, the Canadiens will also have to pay close attention to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who at 23 years of age is Washington’s top point-getter with 26 points in 23 games.

- The Canadiens will also have to play a disciplined brand of hockey on Thursday night, as the Capitals arrive in Montreal with the second-best power play in the league. Barry Trotz’s club has clicked 26.8 percent of the time with the man advantage so far this season. They’ve also scored six power play goals in their last three games, and picked up five straight wins.

- If the Canadiens are among the NHL’s top teams in terms of goals scored per game with an average of 3.42, the Capitals have enjoyed similar success in that department with an average of 3.22 – good enough for third spot. Washington’s forwards aren’t the only players chipping in on offense, though. With 18 points on the year, defenseman John Carlson has been leading the way from the back end.

“I haven’t had a chance to play against the Capitals much because I spent the majority of my career in the Western Conference. But, every time it happens, you can tell he has really good vision, he skates well and he’s a constant offensive threat,” explained Jeff Petry, referencing the 25-year-old defenseman. “You have to be prepared for a fourth guy joining the rush. It’s not just Carlson, though. They’ve got other dangerous guys on defense, too.”

With 39 points between them, the Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban duo likely generates the same type of discussion in the Capitals’ dressing room.

- The Canadiens’ recent string of injuries afforded Christian Thomas another chance to show the team’s brass what he’s capable of. The 23-year-old Toronto native will play his third straight game for Michel Therrien’s troops on Thursday night, assuming a spot on the fourth line with both Brian Flynn and Devante Smith-Pelly. So far, Thomas believes it’s been a good fit.

“I think it’s great. A lot of teams like to put tougher guys out there, guys that are big, to try to push guys around. For us, I think we have a really fast fourth line,” shared Thomas, who has played 22 games with the Canadiens over the last two-plus seasons, while shuffling between the NHL and AHL ranks. “I think we catch other fourth lines off guard. Hopefully, we can keep doing that.”

Coming off a game in which he registered the first assist of his NHL career on a perfect pass to speedster Paul Byron, Thomas is feeling confident right now. Before arriving in Montreal, the former second-round selection put up seven goals and 14 points in 18 games with the IceCaps, so things appear to be clicking for the 5-foot-9, 175-pound winger wherever he goes.

“I think I’ve improved a little bit of everything [since last season]. I think the No. 1 thing is my consistency. I thought I had a better start this year compared to my other years playing in the American League,” mentioned Thomas. “I think that’s translated well here, and hopefully I can keep it going.”

- Mike Condon will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. It will be his 15th start of the year, and his first career start against the Capitals. The Holliston, MA native boasts a 2.11 goals against average and a .918 save percentage on the season.

- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS and City Montreal.

Probable lineup against Washington:

Pacioretty – Desharnais – Weise
Eller – Galchenyuk – Andrighetto
Fleischmann – Plekanec – Byron
Smith-Pelly – Flynn – Thomas

Markov – Subban
Beaulieu – Petry
Emelin – Gilbert

SEE ALSO
Words From The Room - December 3
Game Preview: Canadiens vs Capitals 
Notebook - December 2 

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