- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Sunday morning ahead of their game against the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre. It will be the second tilt between the two teams in five days. Michel Therrien’s troops downed the Flames 2-1 in a shootout last Tuesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Alberta.
- Seventeen players took part in the on-ice session on Sunday morning, including goaltenders Carey Price and Dustin Tokarski. Absent were forwards Brandon Prust and Tomas Plekanec, along with defensemen Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, and Tom Gilbert.
- The Canadiens will feature the same lineup that battled the Canucks on Thursday night in Vancouver. That means that Michael Bournival and Jiri Sekac will not see action against the Flames. On defense, head coach Michel Therrien must still decide between Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi. Beaulieu should get the call as Tinordi remained on the ice for a period of time after the morning skate came to an end.
- Having gone up against Bob Hartley’s contingent less than a week ago in Calgary, the Canadiens know full well what kind of game their opponents will offer up on Sunday night. When the two teams squared off last Tuesday, the Flames utilized their speed to force the Habs into taking penalties that might have ultimately cost them two points. Fortunately, their penalty kill and Carey Price stood tall in the win.
“Calgary came out pretty hard in their own building. They’re a fast team. They work hard. We’ve just got to have that effort for us. I think we’ve just got to concentrate on our game and not worry about what they’re going to bring,” offered Mike Weaver, who sits second on the team with 22 blocked shots on the season. “They’ve got a great power play. We’ve got to take less penalties. We need to execute and control both our blue line and their blue line. I think that’s key for us. When we don’t do that and we don’t get the puck out and deep, that’s what really hurts us.”
While Price was the determining factor in the win in Southern Alberta, Weaver is adamant that relying solely on the Olympic gold-medalist to secure victories isn’t something the Canadiens want to make a habit of doing.
“We want to win the game as a whole. We don’t want to rely on Carey only to give us a chance,” stressed Weaver, who watched Price turn aside 37 shots in regulation time at the Scotiabank Saddledome, before stymying the Flames in the shootout. “We need to execute out there and do the little things that we’re supposed to be doing. We’ve almost relied on our goalies too much. It says a lot about the character of our team, about not ever giving up, which is great to have. But, you only want to use that every so often. You don’t want to use it every time.”
- The Canadiens’ power play hasn’t been clicking all season long, but Sunday night presents another good opportunity to turn things around with the man advantage. While the Habs rank 26th in the league when up a man, the Flames rank 26th in the NHL in short-handed situations.
“We talked about Calgary’s struggles a little bit. I don’t think we have to change too much, only a few small details. We have to go to the net and get rebounds,” stressed Brendan Gallagher, who boasts three goals and five points in 11 games. “There are some players that score 20 goals a season on the power play. They do that because they follow the game plan. Our coaches are doing excellent work. They know exactly what we have to do on the power play. We’ve got to listen to them.”
Returning to the friendly confines of the Bell Centre for the first time since October 25th might also give the Canadiens the extra jump they need to capitalize on any power play opportunities that may come their way.
“All of the games are different, but it always helps when we get to play in front of our fans,” praised Gallagher, who will be looking to register his first career point against Calgary. “We’re going to use their enthusiasm to help us win.”
- Michel Therrien juggled his forward lines at practice on Saturday, and he could be featuring those same lines on Sunday night against the Flames.
“When the team isn’t scoring over a long period of time, most of the time the coach is going to try to make changes to try to create new energy. We all know from the past that things can change quickly. They have a way of doing so,” confided Eller, who was paired with Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Tomas Plekanec on Saturday. “Things rarely stay the same for too long. Hopefully, we can create some chemistry and build off some new energy.”
The other lines featured on Saturday saw Dale Weise alongside Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, and Brendan Gallagher with Alex Galchenyuk and Rene Bourque. The line of Travis Moen, Manny Malhotra and Brandon Prust remained intact.
- Carey Price will get the start in goal against the Flames. The Anahim Lake, BC native holds a 3-4-0 record, a 2.68 goals-against average, and a .909 save percentage in seven career games against Calgary. Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes for the Flames.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game can be seen on RDS and City Montreal.