- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning ahead of their tilt against the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre. Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi and Alexei Emelin hit the ice, as did forwards Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, Alex Galchenyuk, Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon and Daniel Carr. Goaltenders Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski were also present. For his part, captain Max Pacioretty took some time to work on his shot prior to the on-ice session.
- Head coach Michel Therrien will make only one change to his lineup on Thursday night, electing to start Mike Condon in goal. Condon came on in relief of Dustin Tokarski on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. It will mark his first start since December 9 against the Boston Bruins. Jonathan Quick should get the start for the Kings.
- The Pacific Division leading Kings have been playing solid hockey as of late, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. In the midst of a six-game road trip, Darryl Sutter’s squad arrives in Montreal with a 19-9-2 record and 40 points on the year, but they dropped their most recent outing to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night which snapped their nine-game point streak. Following that defeat, the Kings made their way to Mont-Tremblant, where they’ve spent the past couple of days recharging their collective batteries and getting ready for their fifth straight contest away from the friendly confines of home.
“It’s going to be a tough one tonight. They’re so big and they skate so well. It’s going to be a tough challenge. The biggest thing is that we’ll have to make them play our game early. They control the play so well, that’s why we’ll have to use our building to our advantage. The crowd is always behind us,” explained defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who was paired with P.K. Subban at one point during Tuesday night’s loss to the Sharks, and remained alongside the Norris Trophy winner at practice on Wednesday. “We’ll have to get some momentum going. If we swing it the right way, we’ll have some success early on.”
Not only do the Kings have potent offensive weapons up front in Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Milan Lucic and Anze Kopitar, but they also boast one of the finest rearguards in the league in Drew Doughty, who, like Beaulieu, hails from Southwestern Ontario.
“He’s probably the best all-around defenseman in the league. He’s very sneaky and he’ll kill you in both zones. They actually have one of the best defensive groups in the league. They do everything so well and they’re mobile,” praised Beaulieu, who trains with Doughty during the offseason in London, ON. “He’s definitely a solid guy, and we’ll have to pay special attention to him tonight.”
- The Canadiens have been struggling to find the back of the net as of late. Losers of five of their last six games, Michel Therrien’s troops have scored just 11 goals during that span, and been held to two goals or less in all five of those defeats.
Alex Galchenyuk knows full well that something has to change if the Canadiens hope to get things back on track as they get set to play their final home game before hitting the road for their next eight outings.
“I think we have to get more shots though to the net. We have to get after the rebounds. We have to be more aggressive and hungrier out there. When things aren’t going well, you need to simplify things a bit,” shared Galchenyuk, who hasn’t lit the lamp since November 28. “But, we still have confidence in ourselves. Not too long ago, we had the best power play in the league. We have to find a way to get back to that.”
Galchenyuk definitely has a point there, as the Canadiens have failed to capitalize with the man advantage since December 1, going 0-for-18 in their last six games.
- Things appear to be looking up for Devante Smith-Pelly, who continues to recover from a lower-body injury. The 23-year-old winger skated again on Thursday morning, working out on the Bell Sports Complex’s secondary ice rink.
“I just started skating two days ago by myself, so we’re kind of ramping it up here. Hopefully, I can get back in the lineup before the Christmas break,” offered Smith-Pelly, who hasn’t seen game action since December 3 against the Washington Capitals. “Any time you have to sit out is bad, but it was kind of a lingering thing that the training staff and coaching staff thought it would be better to take a couple of weeks off and make sure I was 100 percent. It’s not really fair to my teammates or myself to not be playing to my full capacity, so I’m taking the time off now and hopefully I stay healthy the rest of the way.”
During his time on the sidelines, Smith-Pelly has been paying close attention to his team’s play while thinking about his own game, too. He believes the time spent out of the lineup might just help him when he’s finally ready to play again.
“It gives you a chance to step back, kind of reflect on your game and maybe look at it from a different view. Maybe it improves my game when I come back, but obviously it’s tough when you can’t be out there helping out,” mentioned Smith-Pelly, who has put up three goals and eight points in 26 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “I see most of these games that we’re outplaying the other team. I don’t know if it’s puck luck or just guys being snake bitten, but I think over the last six games, the last four or five we deserved a better fate. As long as we keep going, it’ll turn around quick here.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS and City Montreal.
Game Preview: Canadiens vs Kings
A natural warrior