- The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday ahead of their tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre. Michel Therrien’s troops are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, while Peter Horachek’s contingent has dropped their last two outings. Interestingly enough, Saturday night’s contest will mark the Canadiens’ 400th consecutive regular season sell out on home ice.
- Forward Lars Eller and defensemen Sergei Gonchar and P.K. Subban were the only players who didn’t take part in the morning skate.
- After sitting out the last five games as healthy scratches, forward Manny Malhotra and defenseman Mike Weaver will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Saturday night. Jiri Sekac and Tom Gilbert will watch the game from the press box.
“Athletes are proud people. You want to play. You want to contribute to the team. When you’re not in the lineup, you end up just watching. It’s not fun. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there,” offered Malhotra, who, like Weaver, hasn’t suited up since February 1 against the Arizona Coyotes. “We’ll be ready to play. We want to change the mentality out there that we can’t win against teams that are at the bottom of the standings.”
- It’s been quite some time since the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs went up against one another. The two teams last met back on opening night in early October. Tomas Plekanec lit the lamp in the final minute of regulation time to secure a 4-3 victory for the Habs. Since then, the Canadiens have enjoyed their fair share of success, while the Maple Leafs have struggled to string wins together, losing 21 of their last 25 games.
“We know what they’ve been going through over there. They’re hungry for wins. I’m sure they want to get back to that feeling, but that’s not something we’re too concerned about. We’re in a race for positioning in the standings and that’s what we’ve got to focus on every night. It’s very important, especially on home ice. We’ve got to take care of that,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who is just two points shy of reaching the 100-point mark for his NHL career. “I’m sure the intensity will be just like every other game. It will be competitive. Both teams respect each other. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.”
So, how do the Canadiens plan on avoiding a letdown similar to the one that took place against the Oilers earlier in the week?
“We’ve just got to focus on ourselves. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We have to keep doing what’s made us successful as a team. When we’re doing those things, we’re a good hockey team. When we’re not, we’re pretty mediocre,” stressed Gallagher, who has four goals and 10 points in 10 career regular season games against the Maple Leafs. “It’s just about getting back to what we talk about before every game, sticking to our game plan for the full 60 minutes and overtime and a shootout, if needed.”
- Like Gallagher, Brandon Prust emphasized the importance of not making the same mistakes that ultimately cost the Canadiens a point in their most recent outing.
“We didn’t play very well last game, so we want to accomplish a lot more. Better puck management. We had a lot of turnovers last game. We were sloppy. We tried to do too much,” admitted Prust, who is intimately familiar with the Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry having grown up in Southwestern Ontario. “We know the game we have to play to win and to be successful. We’re at our best when we’re playing top teams and we’re keeping our game simple, we get pucks out and we win puck battles on the walls. That’s how we’re going to win a Stanley Cup. We need to do that every night.”
- Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. It will be his 44th start of the season. Price boasts a 14-13-1 record, a 2.74 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 28 career appearances against the Maple Leafs. Jonathan Bernier will likely get the start in goal for Toronto.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports, in addition to the NHL Network in the United States.