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Game Day - Oilers - February 12

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday ahead of their tilt against the Edmonton Oilers. Michel Therrien’s troops will be looking to pick up their fourth straight victory, while Todd Nelson’s contingent is coming off a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

- Prior to the start of practice, Sergei Gonchar hit the ice on his own along with a bucket of pucks. The 40-year-old rearguard worked on his slapshot and got his legs warmed up for about 15 minutes before returning to the locker room. Max Pacioretty did the same thing. Like Gonchar, he did not take part in the practice session.

- Sixteen players participated in the morning skate, including forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Jiri Sekac, Jacob De La Rose, Michaël Bournival, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, David Desharnais, Christian Thomas and Manny Malhotra. Defensemen Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, Mike Weaver, Nathan Beaulieu were also present, as were Carey Price and Dustin Tokarski.

- No lineup changes are expected for Thursday night’s game. That means that Manny Malhotra and Mike Weaver will likely be healthy scratches once again. Dustin Tokarski will make his 11th start of the season for the Canadiens. It will be the Watson, SK native’s second start of the year against the Oilers. Tokarski surrendered two goals on 18 shots in the Habs’ 3-0 loss to Edmonton on October 27 in Alberta.

- The Oilers enter Thursday night’s contest ranked 29th in the league with just 35 points in 55 games, four points clear of the last-place Buffalo Sabres. That doesn’t mean anything to the Canadiens, who aren’t about to take the likes of perennial scoring threats Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lightly when the two teams meet for the second and final time during the regular season.

“We’ve got to remember that they’re a good hockey team. A record doesn’t always speak for how a team is. They’ve got a lot of skill and a lot of speed. They know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well as of late. It’s going to be a tough game. They’ve had our number, so it’s not going to be easy,” offered Nathan Beaulieu, referencing the Oilers’ convincing victory over the Canadiens earlier in the year.

The Canadiens haven’t forgotten about their back-to-back losses to a pair of sub-par squads earlier in the month, so coming out flat against Edmonton simply isn’t an option.

“Sometimes you can do that, but every team in the league is good,” mentioned Brandon Prust. “They’re going to be coming out and competing. We lost a couple last week [to Arizona and Buffalo], and maybe took our foot off the gas. I thought we did some good things in those games, but didn’t get the breaks. We need to create our own bounces against the Oilers.”

- It’s easy to forget that Alex Galchenyuk is just 21 years old today. He’s already accomplished so much at such a young age, racking up 93 points in 166 career games to date.

“I’m happy where I’m at right now. It’s my third year in the NHL and I’m just 21. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start. I know there’s still a lot to accomplish, but I like where I am,” stressed Galchenyuk, who is the top point-getter from the 2012 NHL Draft class with 23 more points than Oilers standout Nail Yakupov, who was selected first overall. “There’s always pressure when you’re a high pick. It was a great thing to be selected by Montreal. I’m really enjoying myself. ”

While Galchenyuk will undoubtedly be looking to light the lamp against the Oilers to celebrate his birthday, the Milwaukee, WI native will also be keeping an eye out for any pranks that his teammates might have in store prior to puck drop.

“I don’t know if the guys have something special planned like a cream pie or something like that. I’m not in on it,” offered Galchenyuk following the morning skate. “We’ll see what happens. The day is still pretty young.”

- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East, Sportsnet West and RDS.

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