- The Canadiens hit the ice at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Thursday morning for a busier-than-usual morning skate, with 26 players on the ice, including Carey Price, who was participating in his first practice with the team since suffering a lower-body injury on November 25.
“I didn’t try to shoot too hard or try to pick too many corners,” admitted Max Pacioretty with a laugh. “I think a lot of guys were scared going down on him and buried it in his pads a lot. It’s good to see him out there. The tempo of practice is different than skating on your own. The mindset of the guys was to get him back into it and let him feel the puck. From what I saw, he looked sharp.”
- While Price took another step in his rehab process on Thursday, Michel Therrien stressed that there’s still no timeline for his All-Star netminder’s eventual return to action – although he’s hopeful fans will get a chance to see Price between the pipes before the end of the regular season.
“I arrived at the rink really early this morning and he was already here. It’s great to see Carey practicing with his teammates for the first time,” said Therrien. “Just with his presence, Carey is a leader. He’s a very important part of this team. He’s been working extremely hard with the intention of playing again this year, not to get ready for next year’s training camp. It’s very encouraging to see him out on the ice with the rest of the team.”
- Price split his net with newly-signed NCAA goaltender Charlie Lindgren, who joined the team for the trip to Florida after signing as a free agent out of St. Cloud State University on Wednesday morning. The rookie netminder will spend the rest of the season with the big club.
“It doesn’t feel real. [Carey] is obviously the best goalie in the NHL. Just to be on the ice with him, I want to be a sponge and learn as much as I can from him,” said Lindgren, who has images of Ken Dryden on his St. Cloud mask in honor of his father Bob’s all-time favorite player. “On Saturday night, I was playing college hockey and now I’m up in the NHL. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve worked really hard to be here. I’d love to [play a game] but I definitely have to earn it. There are five games left in the season so we’ll see what happens, but if I get the opportunity I definitely want to make the most of it.”
- While Therrien confirmed that he intends on getting Lindgren into a game this season, the 22-year-old goalie will be tagged with backup duties on Thursday night. Mike Condon will get his second career start against the Lightning, having won the first outing 4-3 in a shootout on December 28.
- Since earning a promotion to his new spot centering the Canadiens’ top line, Alex Galchenyuk has been facing some stiff competition on a nightly basis, lining up against other teams’ most potent offensive weapons and stingiest defensive pairings. Thursday night should be no exception, when he, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Byron will get a chance to go toe-to-toe with All-Star sniper, Steven Stamkos in Tampa.
“He’s one of the top players in the league,” confirmed Galchenyuk, who has scored 13 goals in his last 17 games. “The last few games, I’ve played against the top players and it’s fun to match yourself up against them and see how you do, but I try not to think about that. I’ve made that mistake in the last couple of years coming to games thinking about who I have to play against, but I think the second I think about the players I’m playing against, I’m not playing my game.”
- The Lightning are currently the fourth-best defensivet team in the NHL, with a 2.36 goals-against-per-game average but they also sit seventh in the league with an average of 2.78 goals-for-per-game. While Galchenyuk knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in the defensive zone, he also sees that as an opportunity to create a little offense of his own against the Lightning.
“They’re a great team. They have a lot of skill and they move the puck well and they’re really offensive, so we have to make sure we’re smart and sharp in our own end,” explained the 22-year-old pivot. “They’re an offensive team, but there are weaknesses to that, so we have to capitalize on turnovers and make them pay for those.”
- Therrien confirmed that Stefan Matteau would play in place of Mike Brown against the Lightning and P.K. Subban will miss his 10th game since suffering a neck injury against Buffalo on March 10.
- Ben Scrivens cleared waivers on Thursday and has been assigned to the IceCaps.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East, RDS, TSN 690 and 98,5 FM.
LINES AND DEFENSE PAIRINGS AT PRACTICE
De La Rose-McCarron-Matteau
Words from the room
Game Preview: Canadiens vs. Lightning
Canadiens agree to terms on a two-year contract with free agent Charlie Lindgren