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Game Day - Maple Leafs - October 8

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens skated at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Wednesday morning ahead of contesting their 2014-15 regular-season opener against the Maple Leafs. It’s the first of four straight road games Michel Therrien’s troops will contest in the next six days. They’ll also make stops in Washington, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay before returning home to Montreal for the home-opener on October 16th at the Bell Centre.

- Wednesday night’s tilt in Toronto marks the fifth consecutive time the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs will do battle in the season-opener to kick off an NHL campaign.

“It’s one of the biggest rivalries out there, not only in the hockey world, but in all of professional sports. I think we’re lucky to be a part of it. Our philosophy is to take things one game at a time. You’ll often hear that. That’s our approach. But, the first game of the season is always special,” underlined Therrien, who is counting on leaving the Air Canada Centre with the Canadiens’ first two points of the season. “We’re hoping to have a better result than in the last two seasons, because the games didn’t turn out in our favor. But, it’s always special to play on opening night, especially against the Maple Leafs.”

- Czech forward Jiri Sekac will play his first career NHL game on Wednesday night. He’ll suit up on a line with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque. Even if the left-winger boasts 133 games of KHL experience, Michel Therrien is convinced the Kladno native might be somewhat nervous when the time comes to hit the ice in Toronto.

“We talked to him during the week. We congratulated him on making the team, and for having a good training camp. This will be a very special experience for him,” underlined Therrien, who will also feature several other youngsters in his lineup on Wednesday night, including defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. “For all of the players beginning their NHL careers, these are special moments both for them and their families and friends. He’ll remember this experience for the rest of his life.”

If Therrien is satisfied with Sekac’s play to a point where the 22-year-old will don the CH on opening night, the Canadiens’ bench boss insists that his work with the young phenom has only begun.

“The biggest challenge for Sekac was to adapt to the style of play in North America. He needs to play a style that is North-South instead of East-West. He’s been used to playing on larger ice surfaces. But, he’s progressing nicely. He’s a young player with a lot of character, and his work ethic is exemplary. He always gives his all, and he’s getting better every game,” explained Therrien.

RAW: P.K. Subban

- The Canadiens kick off the season with 10 players aged 25 or younger in the fold, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the ingredients necessary to be a success story in 2014-15. What Michel Therrien’s troops might collectively lack in age, five-year NHL veteran and newly minted assistant captain P.K. Subban believes they certainly make up for in skill and know-how.

“I think we’re a younger team, but I think we also have young veterans that have experience. Obviously, over the past two years we’ve had a lot of success, and we want to continue to build on that. We’re a team that has to play in your face every night, and we have to play the right way. That’s the important thing,” offered Subban, who should suit up alongside Russian rearguard Alexei Emelin on Wednesday night in Toronto. “Since I’ve been here, our team has had success because we’ve played together as a team and we’ve played the right way. That’s the most important thing moving forward.”

That being said, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner is also adamant that the key to the Canadiens’ success will also come down to spreading the responsibility of leadership around. Fortunately, the 25-year-old believes that’s already the case inside the locker room.

“I think there’s a lot of leadership collectively as a team. We have a lot of guys who are ready for the opportunity to step up and take advantage of those leadership roles, and I think we’ve established who our leaders are going to be,” stressed Subban, who led all Canadiens defensemen with 10 goals and 53 points in 82 games in 2013-14. “[Andrei] Markov said it in training camp. We need 22 leaders for this team to be successful, and he’s exactly right.”

- Carey Price will get the start for the Canadiens. He boasts a 13-13-1 record, a 2.73 goals-against average, and a .914 save percentage in 27 games against the Maple Leafs over the course of his NHL career.

- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

Lines and D pairings at practice:

Pacioretty – Desharnais – Parenteau
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
Sekac – Eller – Bourque
Weise – Malhotra – Prust
Moen – Bournival

Subban – Emelin
Markov – Gilbert
Beaulieu – Weaver

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