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Game Day – Flyers – January 5

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional practice at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday ahead of their 7:30 p.m. matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers.


- Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Torrey Mitchell, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, and Paul Byron were the six Habs players absent from the game day skate in Philly.

- Ben Scrivens will get his second start as a Hab just a week after being traded to Montreal from Edmonton for forward Zack Kassian. In his first start on December 29 in Florida, Scrivens made 27 saves with a 0.900 save percentage in a 3-1 loss to the Panthers.

- Devante Smith-Pelly will be back in the lineup against the Flyers after missing the last three games as a healthy scratch, including Friday’s Winter Classic in Foxboro. The right winger will replace Dale Weise on a line with David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann.

“They’re two extremely skilled players,” acknowledged the 23-year-old forward, who has three goals and five assists in 28 games this season. “Davey is a pass-first guy which is always fun, because you can expect to get the puck in areas where you might score, and Fleisch is just an overall really good two-way forward who’s going to get in there on the forecheck and create some offense as well.”

Facing the third-ranked team in the NHL for hits this season (1,124), Smith-Pelly’s role in his return to action in Philly is well-defined.

“We’re playing a tough team tonight, and things always get physical here,” confirmed head coach Michel Therrien following practice. “Weise is someone who works hard in the offensive zone, and can crash the net and those are things Smith-Pelly is capable of doing as well.”

Indeed, the six-foot, 214-pounder insists he’s up to the task.

“I feel like I can play a physical game if need be. My game is finishing my checks regardless, so I’ll be ready if it goes that way tonight.”

- Mark Barberio will play his fourth-consecutive game with the Habs since being called up from the IceCaps on December 27. The Montreal-native earned an assist against the Bruins on Friday and has enjoyed a plus-1 differential since arriving in Montreal.

“The guys have given me a warm welcome since I first got here. We’re a close group and it’s good to see. Making my debut on the road was nice, because I’ve been spending a lot of time with my teammates and getting to know them better,” explained the 25-year-old rearguard who signed in Montreal this summer. “My game doesn’t change whether I’m in the AHL or the NHL; I want to move the puck well and play solid defensively.”

- The Canadiens enter the halfway mark of the season in Philadelphia sitting in second-place in the Atlantic Division after spending just one day atop the standings following the team’s 5-1 win over the Bruins at the Winter Classic. But with the start of the new year comes resolutions, and the Habs would like to see their stay at the top become a more permanent one in 2016.

“Our division is so tight right now that you could practically move two or three spots after every game,” admitted captain Max Pacioretty, who tallied a goal and an assist outdoors at Gillette Stadium. “We definitely had a bad December with a lot of injuries, but the start of the new year felt like a fresh start for our team. We’re undefeated in January and we’re trying to stay that way.”

Aside from a big win on a huge stage, the Habs have also benefited from the return of Brendan Gallagher, who will make his second-consecutive outing following a 17-game absence.

“We know how valuable Gally is to our lineup and what he brings, but it also allows our other lines to return to what they were earlier this season when we were having success. When he was out we were having guys playing positions they weren’t used to and we couldn’t find that chemistry. It obviously hurts to lose Dale, but having Brendan back stabilizes things.”

- Puck drop from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on RDS and Sportsnet East.

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