The Canadiens skated at the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday morning ahead of their game against the Penguins.
David Desharnais did not take part in practice on Wednesday, sitting out with flu-like symptoms. Michel Therrien confirmed the 27-year-old center will be in the lineup against Pittsburgh.
With Nathan Beaulieu set to line up alongside Josh Gorges on Wednesday night, Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin will both be healthy scratches against the Penguins.
Louis Leblanc will be in the lineup on Wednesday after being called up from Hamilton on Monday evening. He has one goal in his only career game against Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the big club, Leblanc was second in Bulldogs scoring with nine goals and 20 points in 36 games to go with a plus-2 differential.
“It’s still just a game, but playing against the Penguins is special. They have some great players over there. I’m excited,” shared Leblanc, who will skate on a line with Travis Moen and former Bulldogs teammate Michael Bournival. “The coach hasn’t given me any special directions or anything, but I’ll just go out there and do whatever they ask of me. I’ve improved my game both offensively and defensively in Hamilton and I’ve been given more and more responsibility on the ice. The coaches are happy with my game. I’ve earned a chance to be here tonight and it will be another test for me.”
Wednesday’s game will be the second between the two teams this season. The first time the Habs and Pens met this year, on Nov. 23, the Canadiens came away with a 3-2 win thanks in part to a pair of goals by Max Pacioretty. Despite having already earned his spot on Team USA’s roster, the 25-year-old sniper isn’t planning on taking his foot off the gas when he faces his future Olympic coach’s squad on Wednesday.
“When I talked to [Team USA and Penguins head coach Dan] Bylsma he mentioned that maybe guys can take it easy on Pittsburgh now that we’re not auditioning for the team,” joked Pacioretty, who currently leads the Canadiens with 21 goals. “I always want to make a good impression with everyone but it’s obviously a little bit more special knowing he’s going to coach me in a couple of weeks. You want to think team-first and come out with a win, but if I can contribute on the scoresheet it’s icing on the cake.”
After putting on a defensive clinic against the Penguins in his first outing, helping hold Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet while chipping in with a goal of his own, Tomas Plekanec will once again be tasked with stifling the league’s leading scorer, but his coach knows it won’t be quite as easy to have the Selke-worthy center matched up against the perennial Hart Trophy winner on every shift.
“First off, we don’t have last change tonight so it’s a bit of a tougher position to be in,” explained Therrien, who spent four seasons behind the Penguins bench and coached both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their first few NHL seasons. “Our players will be ready to face them and it’s important to work as a five-man unit. It’s not about just one player. It’s a big challenge when you talk about Crosby and Malkin; those are two really dangerous lines. There are five players on the ice so it will be important for everyone to play responsibly and make sure we’re making good decisions with the puck because they have players who can create a lot of offense off of turnovers.”
Carey Price will make his 40th start of the campaign, looking to build on his 9-8-2 all-time record against the Penguins. At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury will start for Pittsburgh between the pipes. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Words from the room