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Game Day – Panthers – March 15

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday morning ahead of their tilt against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.

- Before the skate got underway, several injured players continued their rehab work on Brossard’s primary ice rink. Brian Flynn and Daniel Carr – both of whom sported tracksuits – skated with head athletic therapist Graham Rynbend. Then, David Desharnais donned all of his equipment and worked out with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine.

- Following the on-ice session, forward Charles Hudon was re-assigned to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. Hudon played one game during his most recent call-up, logging 14:26 of ice time.

“Technically, he was with us on an emergency recall basis,” explained head coach Michel Therrien. “When a player is ready to return, you have to send a guy down. We would have liked to keep him with us longer, but we liked what we saw.”

- With respect to the players who missed the Canadiens’ most recent outing over the weekend against Minnesota, Lars Eller (flu), Nathan Beaulieu (lower-body injury) and Stefan Matteau (lower-body injury) all skated with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning. Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed, however, that both Eller and Beaulieu wouldn’t be suiting up against Florida. They will be making the trip to Buffalo following the game, though, but there’s no guarantee that either will see game action against the Sabres on Wednesday night.

- For his part, Matteau will be back in the lineup against the Panthers, and he’ll be going up against a familiar face on the opposing team having spent some time around Jaromir Jagr while plying his trade in the New Jersey Devils organization.

“He’s a source of inspiration for all young players. He’s played for such a long time and been so dominant over the years. I had the chance to skate with him a little bit in New Jersey and I often heard people talk about him when I was a kid,” said Matteau, who watched his father, Stephane, play more than a few games against Jagr during his playing career that spanned 848 games. “I don’t think he could really give me any tips to play against him. He’s a smart guy on the ice, probably smarter than everybody else.”

- While the Panthers find themselves right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Canadiens are on the outside looking in. Gerard Gallant’s squad sits third in the Atlantic Division with 85 points on the year, right alongside the Tampa Bay Lightning. With 13 games to go, there’s nothing the Canadiens would like more than to put a small dent in any momentum their playoff-bound opponents are feeding off of right now.

“It’s obviously going to be a good test. They’ve been a good team since the start of the year. They’ve obviously got a lot of talent on their team. It’s a good chance for us to kind of play spoiler a bit,” said defenseman Mark Barberio, who scored the Canadiens’ lone goal against Minnesota over the weekend at the Bell Centre. “We’ve played some good teams lately. Minnesota’s been battling for a spot. Dallas is one of the top teams in the league. It’s another good challenge for us.”

Stefan Matteau is one of many Habs players eager to go up against Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday night.

It’s also another chance for some of the Canadiens’ young guns to showcase their skills against one of the league’s top groups.

“Obviously, circumstances have changed a little bit. If you look around our room, we’re a very young team right now. Looking at that, it’s a good opportunity for our young guys to prove themselves,” explained Barberio. “You want to prove yourself against the best team. Florida right now is battling near the top of the division, so it’s a great chance and a great opportunity.”

- The Canadiens are a team stacked with youngsters, as are the Panthers, though. Five of Florida’s seven top scorers are currently under the age of 25.

“Florida is a team with a lot of young and talented players. The struggles they had for a while helped them draft some really good guys,” mentioned Therrien in his post-practice press conference on Tuesday, referencing the likes of Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, among others. “They’re surrounded by good veterans. And, Gerard is doing excellent work with them right now.”

- Michael McCarron is a newcomer to the NHL ranks, but it hasn’t taken him long to feel confident in his abilities. That’s because he’s been given the opportunity to see ice time in a host of different scenarios, all of which include a measure of responsibility that isn’t always afforded to youngsters with limited experience at hockey’s highest level.

“I think [the coaching staff] is putting me in a lot of situations. They trust me enough to put me on the power play and to take defensive zone faceoffs, the little things like that,” said McCarron, who has averaged 11:31 of ice time through 10 games so far this year, and won just under 52 percent of his draws along the way. “I think they’re slowly believing in me and trusting me. At the same time, I’ve got to make them trust me. It’s a process. I’ve just got to keep going.”

- Mike Condon will get the start in goal for the Canadiens.

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

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