BROSSARD – The Canadiens held a full game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday, ahead of hosting the visiting Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.
- Defenseman Tom Gilbert, who suffered an upper body injury against the Sharks a week ago, skated alone under the supervision of athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine prior to the start of practice. Gilbert has missed two games since last Saturday after not making the trip to Nashville and Winnipeg earlier this week.
- Forward Brian Flynn skated alongside teammates Lars Eller and Jacob De La Rose at practice, and will be back in the lineup following a five-game absence as a healthy scratch.
“We want to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do. To be honest, we haven’t given him many chances to prove himself since he arrived here. We have a group of healthy forwards in our lineup right now, and tonight we want to give him a chance,” confirmed head coach Michel Therrien of Flynn, who has suited up for just five games since being acquired by the Canadiens at the NHL trade deadline.
Although the 26-year-old forward will take Devante Smith-Pelly’s place in the lineup as the latter joins Manny Malhotra, Sergei Gonchar, and Mike Weaver on the press gallery, Therrien insists there’s nothing to read between the lines.
“It’s not about Devante. We really just want to see what Flynn can bring. Devante brought a good physical presence to our last two games on the road, but we want to be fair with Flynn and give him his chance,” added the Canadiens’ bench boss.
- With a win against the Panthers on Saturday, the Canadiens can officially secure a playoff berth this spring. Despite already owning 100 points in the standings with seven games left to play, Lars Eller insists that doing so would represent more than a formality for a team also battling for the top spot in the East.
“We’re in a good position [to make it], but we’re not in the playoffs yet,” acknowledged the 25-year-old forward who has 25 games of NHL playoff experience under his belt. “It’s not the playoffs yet, but you can feel the desperation of other teams. There’s something to play for every game. We’re not satisfied to sit back. We always prefer to play games that mean something, and tonight’s points matter just as much to us as they do to Florida.”
Indeed, Florida is also in the hunt for a playoff spot – albeit one of the two remaining wild card berths – sitting just three points back of both the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators heading down the final stretch.
“I think once you got to the 15-game mark you knew things would start to tighten up. It’s just the way it’s going to be now, but luckily for us, we’ve been playing tight games since the halfway mark ourselves,” noted defenseman P.K. Subban. “Our games haven’t been too wide open so we’re used to playing that type of hockey, but if we’re thinking any team from here on in is going to let off the pedal – whether they’re in the playoffs or not – we’re going to be sadly mistaken. This team is playing for their playoff lives and we know they’re going to give it their best effort tonight.”
- Subban himself will also get a chance to give his best effort against a childhood idol on Saturday.
“A big part of my game is puck protection and being strong on the puck, but there’s no player who’s been better at it in his career than Jaromir Jagr,” admitted the Canadiens assistant captain, who ran into the 43-year-old Panthers forward during dinner on Friday. “A big part of my game comes from watching him play and my dad was always a big fan of Jagr’s when I was growing up. He always wanted me to be a player that was strong on the puck, just like him. Even today, when he’s on the ice, he doesn’t shy away from reminding me how strong he is on the puck sometimes. It’s amazing for someone who’s been playing the game for so long to be in as good shape as he’s in.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on TVA Sports and City TV.