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Game Day - Game 1 vs. Lightning, May 1

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday morning ahead of contesting Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.

- Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu hit the ice prior to the morning skate. He was accompanied by strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard and athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine. Beaulieu will miss at least the first four games against Tampa Bay as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury sustained in the series against Ottawa.

- After wrapping up their opening-round series against the Ottawa Senators in six games, Michel Therrien’s troops enjoyed some time off before getting back to work on the South Shore. It’s been four-plus days since the Canadiens went toe-to-toe with a playoff opponent, and it’s safe to say they’re chomping at the bit to resume their postseason run in front of the Bell Centre faithful.

“It took us a while to find out who we were going to play. Once we knew, we just wanted to drop the puck. On the other hand, I’m sure the Lightning are saying the same thing. It’s going to be an emotional series, a hard-fought series,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who scored the game-winning goal in the Canadiens’ series-clinching victory against Ottawa last Sunday night. “We’ll be doing the same things we’ve talked about all year long. If we don’t do it, we’ll probably end up on the losing side. If we do, I feel like we give ourselves a good chance to win.”

Committing to playing a sound game without the puck will be a top priority. The Canadiens paid close attention to the way in which the Detroit Red Wings went about their business in Round 1, making every effort to slow down a Lightning attack that is predicated on speed and hustle.

“I think Detroit showed how [to slow them down]. They did a good job. They were very, very tight on them. They didn’t give them a lot of space. Their defense gapped-up really ice,” explained Dale Weise, who sits tied for second on the team alongside Tomas Plekanec and Torrey Mitchell with a plus-3 differential through six playoff games. “The Lightning do have a lot of skill. They enter the zone with a lot of speed. I thought Detroit kind of took away their speed by gapping up, so we’ve got to find a way to do that.”

Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau shared similar thoughts following the morning skate.

“Everyone will have to be good defensively. We know what kind of depth they’ve got up front. They’ve got three solid scoring lines and four lines that are capable of scoring goals. They’re a team that’s been dangerous all season,” mentioned Parenteau. “It will be up to us to play well defensively, just like we did all year. We’ll have to wait for our chances.”

- In addition to playing well defensively, the Canadiens are also going to have to find a way to get their power play going in Round 2. Therrien & Co. have spent the last couple of days tweaking the team’s power play units, making several personnel changes along the way. At Friday’s morning skate, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher formed one power play trio, while Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau formed another.

“For one thing, I’d like to see us read the play better [on the power play]. You’ve got to accept what the other team gives you. You can’t force things. When you force plays, you put yourself in a tough spot. It starts with reading the play better and when you’ve got a good opportunity, you need to make good decisions,” mentioned Therrien, who paired P.K. Subban with Jeff Petry and Andrei Markov with Tom Gilbert during Friday’s power play practice session. “That increases your chances for success. Right now, our guys are forcing things. You get the sense that they’re a little bit tight, which is normal. They just have to avoid forcing things out there.”

For his part, Eller didn’t see much power play time in Round 1, hitting the ice for just 91 seconds while the Canadiens were up a man. He’ll likely see more responsibility in that department on Friday night, which suits the Dane just fine.

“I think I can bring a little bit of everything. I can play different positions. Tonight, my role is mostly going to be in front of the net. It’s going to be about trying to get in front of Bishop,” offered Eller, who scored a goal and added an assist in Round 1. “But, you’ve got to ready for anything. You’ve got to be ready to win puck battles along the boards. You’ve got to be able to make plays. But, I think I can contribute in many areas.”

- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports.

Forward lines and D pairings at the morning skate:

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