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Game Day - Game 4 vs. Rangers - May 25

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional practice at Madison Square Garden on Sunday morning. Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov, Thomas Vanek, Carey Price and Mike Condon were not on the ice.

- When the Habs hit the ice at Madison Square Garden, the Bell Centre will be rocking equally hard, with over 20,000 tickets sold for the team’s official viewing party, Le Party DU Club IV.

- Sunday is the last day to vote for P.K. Subban in his semifinal matchup with Drew Doughty to be on the cover of EA’s NHL15. Fans can vote on Twitter using the hashtag #NHL15Subban, or by visiting

- It’s no coincidence that the Canadiens’ most heated and longstanding rivalry is with the Boston Bruins, a team the Habs have faced in the postseason 34 times in NHL history, a record among all North American pro sports teams. Rivalries are born in the playoffs, where time and space are hard to come by and players can spend up to seven games over the course of two weeks battling for every inch on the ice and being baited into offering up bulletin board material off of it. It’s been nearly 20 years since the Habs and Rangers last met in the playoffs, but it took just three games for the water to start boiling over between the two Original 6 clubs. Between trading injuries to key players, a pair of suspensions about to be served, and a war of words heating up between the head coaches, there’s no shortage of motivation in either dressing room at the moment.

“Any time you play teams consecutively three times in a row, emotions start to rise and tempers start to flare. I think you’re seeing that now in this series,” confirmed Josh Gorges. “It will continue to grow. Both teams are competing for something pretty important and when that’s the case, I think the competiveness on both sides is going to elevate and you’re going to have some dislike between the two teams. I think you have to use it but it has to be controlled. You have to be smart. This is an emotional time of year and these games are so important that you want to play on that edge and play with some fire and at the same time, you can’t cross that line. We can’t be stupid and we can’t be taking dumb penalties. It’s a matter of walking a fine line.”

- With two days between games for the second time this series, the Canadiens and Rangers have had some extra time to recover physically in the Conference finals than they did in the first two rounds. While some players would prefer to keep momentum rolling with less time between games, veteran defenseman Mike Weaver has no problem with the rare postseason rest.

“I don’t mind every other night, but I guess NBC dictates what goes on,” mentioned Weaver, who has also seen his team play two matinee games in the playoffs to fit better with network preferences. “It’s actually kind of nice to be able to heal up the bumps and bruises.”

- The extra time between games may be giving players time out of the spotlight, but it’s given both teams’ head coaches an additional day to stoke the fires of the extraneous storylines that have been stewing during off-days. While the media has enjoyed the back-and-forth exchanges between Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien during the Conference finals, the players haven’t been following any of the off-ice happenings in the series – something both coaches were likely planning on when they stepped up to their respective podiums.

Michel Therrien's post-practice presser

“I don’t really know what’s being said,” admitted Max Pacioretty, who avoids social media and doesn’t read about or watch hockey commentary when he’s away from the rink. “I’ve only heard one or two things, but at the end of the day if you don’t play the right way or if you lose concentration or get focused on the wrong things, you’re going to lose and games are too valuable right now to get caught up in something off the ice.”

- Following the events of Saturday’s “practice-gate”, where Therrien let Vigneault’s assistant coaches know how unimpressed he was to see them breaking what he called a “gentleman’s agreement” by sitting in and watching the Canadiens’ off-day practice, the discussions continued between the two coaches on Sunday morning. As heated as things seem to be getting between the veteran bench bosses, Therrien doesn’t envision the jabs extending beyond the final handshake when the series comes to a close.

“Alain Vigneault, first of all, he's a good friend, and I'm privileged to be one of his friends. He's an important person in my life,” shared Therrien, who was the coach of the Canadiens’ farm team while Vigneault was behind the bench in Montreal in the early 2000s. “He's a guy that pushed for me to get into pro hockey, and I respect him. Over the years we became great, great friends, and I've got tons of respect for him, and he's a good coach. But right now we're battling for the same thing. He wants to get to the Stanley Cup Final with his team, and it's the same thing for me. We've got to put our friendship aside for, what, two weeks? I'm sure when everything's going to be done, as soon as we get a chance to see each other, we're going to have a cold beer like we have in the past, and nothing's going to change. But right now we're competing for the same goal. That's normal. It doesn't mean I have no respect for him. I have tons of respect, and he's one of the reasons why the Rangers are here, because he's a good coach.”

- While their press conference exchanges have become Broadway’s hottest acts over the last few days, no one has lost focused on what’s really at stake at the World’s Most Famous Arena on Sunday night.

“What’s important for us is tonight’s game,” stressed Therrien. “Everything else is just a side show.”

- No lineup changes were confirmed during Therrien’s 10-minute presser.

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