- The Canadiens skated at Amalie Arena on Tuesday morning in preparation for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Tampa. Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Tom Gilbert did not take part in the practice.
- Despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Monday night, Ryan Callahan has not been officially ruled out for Game 6 by head coach Jon Cooper. While it’s likely the Lightning forward – who is currently Tampa’s plus/minus and hits leader – will not be in uniform on Tuesday night, the Canadiens haven’t adapted the game plan in light of his probable absence.
“If we go in with the mindset that it’s going to be a little bit easier tonight because Callahan is out, we’re going to be making a big mistake,” said Lars Eller, who is first on the team and fifth in the league with a 58.6% efficiency in the faceoff circle this spring. “We can’t look at it that way. We’ve had injuries, too, and other guys step up.”
- Getting on the board first has been a recipe for success for both the Habs and the Lightning in the 2015 Playoffs. Currently owning a 3-1 record when opening the scoring – including a perfect 2-0 in two elimination games this series – the Canadiens have made no secret about the importance of getting into the driver’s seat as quickly as possible, especially given the team is 3-0 when leading after the first period and 5-0 when leading after the second this spring.
“You don’t want to get behind the Eight-Ball right away and spend the whole game fighting back. It’s good to establish a lead and try to contain it. When you have a lead, you control the pace,” explained Nathan Beaulieu. “You win games by very low numbers of goals. It’s important to get a quick one right away and contain the lead and push the pace. A good start is always in the back of our minds.”
Currently in the hunt for his eighth-straight win in an elimination game since arriving in Sochi for the 2014 Olympics, Carey Price has been a key factor in the Canadiens’ ability to hang on to leads once they’ve gotten them this year.
“We know that he’s going to be a wall back there like he’s been all year long. He very seldom lets in more than one or two,” said Beaulieu of the Vezina, Hart and Ted Lindsay-nominated netminder, who has a .923 save percentage and 2.16 goals-against average so far in the postseason. “It’s a special thing we have to work with so we know what we have to do. A lead is so big when you know he’s going to be back there to protect us.”
- The 2014-15 Habs can write a new page in the team’s record books with a win on Tuesday by becoming the first group in franchise history to force a Game 7 after trailing a series 3-0. Instead of feeling the heat of playing win-or-go-home hockey for a third-straight game, the Canadiens are entering Game 6 with confidence, looking to earn another game at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
“We don’t feel pressure; we like to apply pressure,” said head coach Michel Therrien. “The guys feel good about themselves and they love the challenge. This is a group that refuses to die. There’s a really good and special chemistry with this group. They love to be surrounded by each other. They feel confident and the confidence comes because of the way they play.”
- One year ago to the day, the Canadiens were sitting in a familiar setting, getting ready for Game 6 against the Bruins while trailing 3-2 in the series. With the memory of that Conference semifinal comeback still fresh, the Habs are looking to the recent past for inspiration heading into another Game 6, 365 days later.
“We were in this situation last year in Boston. We were down 3-2 and we won the game and then we won the series. We did it last year and we believe we can do it again this year,” stressed David Desharnais, who had an assist and finished with a plus-2 differential in the team’s 4-0 win in Game 6 against Boston last year. “We’ve learned from that experience and we’re confident.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been considered the favorites this season and we heard all the time that last year’s run was lucky,” he added. “We want to prove people wrong.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Amalie Arena.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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