The Canadiens held an optional practice on Friday with 16 players taking part. Carey Price, Daniel Briere, David Desharnais, Brian GIonta, Travis Moen, Max Pacioretty, and Brandon Prust were not on the ice for the skate.
With Alexei Emelin sliding back into the lineup against the Wings, Michel Therrien confirmed Raphael Diaz and Francis Bouillon will be healthy scratches on Friday night, along with George Parros.
“It’s not because we’re not satisfied with Frankie,” explained the Habs bench boss of his decision to sit the 38-year-old blue-liner. “We’ve got eight defensemen and Frankie has given us some good hockey; he’s a veteran and a warrior. But we wanted to give Emelin a chance to get back in the lineup to give him a fair chance to show what he’s capable of doing tonight.”
The game will mark the Canadiens’ first visit to Joe Louis Arena since December 10, 2010, and it will also be the first matchup between the two clubs since the Red Wings were at the Bell Centre in January 2012. Friday’s game is the first of four meetings on tap between the two Original 6 clubs this season, and the first time they will face each other as divisional rivals.
“When we left Montreal for four games, we knew three of them were division games,” mentioned Therrien of his clubs recent road swing. “We won in Ottawa, I thought in Toronto we deserved a better fate because I really liked the way we played there until a few breakdowns cost us the game, and if we can win tonight’s game, we end up winning two out of three division games. Those are important games.”
While the Red Wings will be missing some firepower up front with Pavel Datsyuk out with a groin injury, they will be able to count on the services of Daniel Alfredsson, who will return to the lineup after missing the past five games with a back injury. Team USA netminder Jimmy Howard was injured earlier in the week and will not play against the Canadiens, but the Habs shouldn’t expect an easy night with Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes. The Swedish puckstopper has a 12-3-2 record so far in 2013-14.
“They’re a team that has their own unique style. I have a lot of respect for them; that’s a team that made the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons and that’s not easy to do,” explained Therrien, who was at the helm of the Penguins squad that lost to Detroit in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. “That shows what a great job their management and coaching staff is doing over there. It’s an accomplishment to make the playoffs the way the league is now and they’ve managed to consistently earn their spot. They’re strong on the puck and they’re a fast team. The game tonight will be an important one for us and it won’t be an easy one.”
Price will look to build to his 2-2-1 career record against the Wings, getting a chance to impress Team Canada coach Mike Babcock in person for the first time this season and the only time before the two join forces in Sochi.
Game preview: MTL @ DET
Words from the room