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Game Day - December 1 - Blue Jackets

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday morning in preparation for their tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre.

- Prior to the start of practice, forward Alexander Semin hit the ice for a brief skating session. Semin, who remains on injured reserve, suffered a lower-body injury on November 25 against the New York Rangers.

- Head coach Michel Therrien – who will be behind the bench for his 700th career NHL game – confirmed only one lineup change for Tuesday night’s contest against Columbus. Alexei Emelin returns to active duty after missing the last two games. He will take Greg Pateryn’s spot on the back end.

- Life without Carey Price in goal begins for real on Tuesday night. Deprived of the All-World netminder’s services for at least the next six weeks, the Canadiens are well aware of the challenge that lies ahead. It’s a test they’re prepared to handle head on, coming to work with the same approach that has helped them reach the top of the NHL standings through seven weeks of play early on this season.

“We’re handling this like professionals. For young guys or inexperienced guys who’ve never gone through this before, where you have injury problems and guys need to step up, this is where we get to see what we’re made of as a team,” explained defenseman P.K. Subban, who currently sits tied for third among all NHL rearguards with 20 points on the year. “I think that any team in this league, when they lose their No. 1 goaltender – or a couple of their top players, like with Gally and Mitchy that we’re missing, too – the onus is on us to respond the right way as a group. If we have the right attitude, we’ll be fine.”

In fact, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner believes a little hardship isn’t necessarily a bad thing right about now.

“Quite frankly, I’m happy that our team is going through some adversity at this point in the year. It’s good for us. Come playoff time, there are going to be things that happen, too. It’s better for us to face it now and learn how to deal with it the right way,” admitted Subban. “We have the right leadership in this room that’s going to hold this group accountable. Everybody’s got to step up and contribute.”

- After being called up from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps on Monday afternoon, goaltender Zachary Fucale took part in Tuesday’s morning skate on the South Shore. The Rosemere native has performed brilliantly in the early stages of his professional career, posting a 7-2-1 record, a 3.12 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in 12 appearances so far this year.

“After getting the call, I had an instant smile on my face. I smiled pretty much the entire day. It’s very exciting, but at the same, it’s just another step forward. Like management said, I just need to stay ready. I’m not here on vacation. I need to work hard,” offered Fucale, who will serve as Mike Condon’s back-up on Tuesday night with Dustin Tokarski having been reassigned to the IceCaps on Monday. “This is a good opportunity for me to be around the pros. It will be beneficial both now and when I head back to St. John’s. My goal right now is just to learn and absorb as much knowledge as I can.”

Following the morning skate, Therrien expanded upon the Canadiens’ decision to send Tokarski back to St. John’s and bring Fucale up to the big club for the first time.

“Tokarski hasn’t played much in the last month. He needs to play before we’re going to use him. It wouldn’t be fair to throw him out there if he hasn’t played for almost a month. We want to make sure he’s going to play,” shared Therrien, referencing the fact that Tokarski will tend goal for the next three games with Sylvain Lefebvre’s squad, seeing game action on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. “For his part, Zach has done a wonderful job in St. John’s. I talked to him this morning. He has to be a sponge. He needs experience, but he’s also got to be ready [to play]. That’s his job. He’s a good kid with a good attitude.”

- Speaking of attitude, the Canadiens will surely be looking to avoid any sort of letdown once the puck drops on Tuesday night against John Tortorella’s contingent – even if 19 points currently separate the two teams in the standings.

“I don’t think you can look at the standings when you’re playing teams. They don’t reflect how tough this league is, especially with teams at the bottom of the league. The way this league is designed is any team can beat any other team on any given night if you’re not prepared or not playing the right way,” offered Subban, who has two goals and seven points in eight career games against Columbus. “Hockey is that type of game. If we don’t come out with the right attitude or the right performance, they’re going to beat us. It’s that simple.”

Therrien’s assessment of the Blue Jackets, meanwhile, is a good indicator that he isn’t taking the likes of Ryan Johnasen, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno or Brandon Dubinsky, among others, lightly either.

“This is a team that a lot of people put in the playoffs. They had a bad start. They’ve played some good hockey lately, though, and they’re tough to play against,” offered Therrien. “They’ve been taking more chances and having some success. It’s going to be a hell of a challenge for us again tonight.”

- Mike Condon will make his 14th start of the year for the Canadiens. Sergei Bobrovsky will be between the pipes for the Blue Jackets.

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

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