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Game Day - Islanders - December 23

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held a morning practice on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY a couple of hours before facing the Islanders in the team’s final game before the Christmas break.

- Coming off a 79-point, 26th-place, 2013-14 season, the Islanders are one of the NHL’s early surprises so far this year, currently ranked second in the East with 46 points – two more than the Canadiens. Tuesday marks the first of three games between the two teams this season after the Canadiens won the season series over the Isles 2-1 a year ago.

“I’m not surprised by their success. They’ve been rebuilding over the last couple of years now with quality players like John Tavares and Kyle Okposo,” admitted P.-A. Parenteau, who played two seasons in Uniondale between 2010-2012. “They’ve also added an excellent goalie in Jaroslav Halak which makes a huge difference, as well as two excellent defensemen right before the start of training camp. They’re a good team and we’ll need to be ready tonight.”

Coming off a veteran shopping spree over the summer to bolster a young core, the Islanders have seen the team's offseason moves pay off.

“They have so much talent that you knew it was only a matter of time they'd have success,” agreed Max Pacioretty, who registered one goal in three games against the Islanders a season ago. “Now they’ve got a great couple of goalies with some help on the back end and I think that’s really jump started their team and a big reason behind their success this year. They know how to put pucks in the back of the net and I think that starts with a good defense. They’re playing more in the offensive zone, and the best way to do that is with good defense and having your D-men join the rush.”

- Following Tuesday’s game, the Canadiens will enjoy a short three-day break before reporting to Brossard on Saturday. With rest just hours away, the team was nevertheless focused on heading into the holidays with momentum in tow.

“Although our record is good at the moment, we want to finish strong before Christmas and have clear heads over the holidays. The best way for us to do that is with a win,” acknowledged David Desharnais, who has scored four points over the last four games. “It’s hard to not think ahead after being at home for two weeks and then playing this game right before Christmas, but it’s part of our job and we’ll focus on doing our best during our three hours on the ice tonight.”

With just eight wins on the road this season, a win in Long Island could go a long way in ensuring a happy holiday season for the Habs.

“Obviously it’s the last game before the break so it would be nice to finish with a bit of confidence and momentum from a road win,” explained Pacioretty. “We know it’s a different ballgame when we’re at home versus when we’re on the road, and we have to find a way to have success on the road. This will be a great start and hopefully we can get off on the right foot.”

- Carey Price will be back in goal on Tuesday, making his 29th start of the season and tenth in a row since December 1. In 15 career outings opposite the Islanders, Price has registered a 7-3-0-3 record with a 2.74 GAA. On the other end of the ice, Chad Johnson will get his tenth start of the season for the Islanders and second career start against the Habs -- his first coming a year ago with the Bruins.

“I’m surprised that it’s not Halak tonight, but I don’t see that as an advantage for us. You can’t see things that way with everything that can happen during a hockey game,” added Parenteau. “I played with Chad a bit in the minors and I know he’s a good goalie that we can’t take lightly.”

- Following the morning skate, Michel Therrien confirmed that no changes will be made to the roster, meaning that Mike Weaver, Michael Bournival and Bryan Allen will once again be the evening’s scratches.

- A 7:00 p.m. puck drop is scheduled on Tuesday in Long Island.

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