WASHINGTON -- The Canadiens held an optional practice at the Verizon Center in Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of their 7:00 p.m. game against the Capitals. P.K. Subban, Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec, and Paul Byron – who signed a three-year contract extension with the team on Tuesday night – were not on the ice for the morning skate.
- Michel Therrien confirmed following the morning skate that Dale Weise will be back in the lineup in place of Lucas Lessio, and that Mike Condon will get the start in goal against the Caps. Weise was absent from Monday’s game against the Predators and Tuesday’s practice do to a flu. Condon’s start is the third in a row for the rookie netminder, who posted a shootout win over the Flyers on Friday and a shootout loss against Nashville on Monday.
- The Habs are facing the NHL’s top team in the Capitals, who sit 10 points clear of the second place Dallas Stars with 92 points in 58 games to date.
“It’s a tall task even with a full lineup. They’re a test for any NHL team that faces them this season. You look at their roster and they barely have any weaknesses. They’re good in goal, they’re solid defensively, and they’re explosive on offense. It will be an excellent test for us tonight,” acknowledged Therrien.
Captain Max Pacioretty echoed his head coach’s analysis.
“Starting from the goaltending out, you look at their lineup and they don’t have many flaws. We’ve got to outwork a team like that to beat them, so it’s a big test for us tonight. They’re not a team we want to trade chances with and play pond hockey. We want to play sound defensively and outwork them,” prescribed Pacioretty.
- In a previous meeting this season, the Canadiens outshot the Capitals 35-19, but eventually lost 3-2 in regulation on T.J. Oshie’s third-period marker. That game still remains fresh in the Habs’ minds more than two months later.
“I do remember that game, because we felt frustrated after it knowing we played so well and their goaltender made so many saves,” admitted Pacioretty, who notably registered nine shots on goal in the Dec. 3 effort. “It’s a reminder that we can skate with this team and we have the right guys to match up with them offensively and defensively if we play the right way for 60 minutes. Looking back at that game gives us confidence heading into tonight.”
- Byron met the media for the first time on Wednesday since inking his new three-year deal with the Canadiens on Tuesday.
“It’s a really happy time for me and my family. I worked really hard these past few years to earn a contract like this and finally head into a summer knowing where I’ll be next year. You can’t really sum it up in words. It’s a great feeling for me,” dished the 26-year-old forward, who has registered 11 points (8 goals, 3 assists) in 40 games so far this season.
It was sweet retribution for a player who was previously claimed off of waivers from the Calgary Flames just prior to the start of the regular season, on October 6, 2015.
“That day was pretty disappointing, I thought I had done a lot the past couple of years to show my value to the team. Everything for me happens for a reason. Instead of focusing on the negatives, it’s given me an unbelievable opportunity to play for Montreal,” continued Byron. “It’s worked out for me in my career, it’s a better fit for my family, and it shows that sometimes good things come from bad ones. Now I’ll try to keep working and getting better every day.”
- Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on RDS and Sportsnet East beginning at 7:00 p.m.