- The Canadiens held an optional game day skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday. Notably absent from practice ahead of facing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre were Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Sergei Gonchar, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Tom Gilbert.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering an upper body injury on January 2 in New Jersey. Despite being back on the ice for the entire practice however, the 31-year-old forward will nevertheless miss a third consecutive game on Saturday.
- Although head coach Michel Therrien has not yet confirmed his roster, forwards Michael Bournival and Sven Andrighetto may find a familiar face in the lineup against the Penguins.
Called up from Hamilton on Thursday, Christian Thomas could play his first game with the Canadiens this season on Saturday.
“We didn’t play together often, but when we did, it worked well. I’m eager to see what he brings tonight because we play well together,” praised Bournival of his former Bulldogs teammate who has registered nine goals and five assists in 29 games in Hamilton this season. “Christian is a good skater and a hard worker with lots of talent. We know our role is to bring energy to the ice while also creating scoring chances, and that’s what we’ll focus on doing tonight.”
Representing the Habs’ most junior line meanwhile, with a combined 84 career NHL games between the three young forwards, Thomas won’t be the only one looking to make his mark on Saturday.
“We’re all still new to the NHL and we all want to make a good impression,” added Bournival, who scored twice against the Devils last Friday. “It’s a good opportunity to prove ourselves. We’re obviously still young, but if we work hard, we’ll get the scoring chances.”
- Facing Pittsburgh for the final time this year, the Canadiens will have the opportunity to win a second consecutive season series against Sidney Crosby & Co., having gone 2-1-0 opposite the Penguins in 2013-14.
Winners of a 4-1 decision at the Consol Energy Center most recently a week ago, the Habs won’t try to mess with what has proven to be a recipe for success.
“We’ve just got to have the same mindset as the last time we faced them,” admitted defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. “We weren’t happy with the result against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but we know that Pittsburgh’s another very good hockey club just like Tampa. We played a really good game in their building a week ago so we know they’re going to be hungry to come back here. It’s going to be a tough game and we’ve prepared ourselves for it.”
With the visitors ranked ninth in the NHL for goals per game with an average of 2.95, the Canadiens will have to keep a close eye on the always dangerous Evgeni Malkin (18 G-27 A-45 PTS) and Crosby (11 G – 32 A – 45 PTS), who sit fifth and ninth league-wide in individual scoring, respectively.
“They’re so skilled. You’ve just got to control that,” continued Beaulieu. “All of their lines can score so you can’t really match or discipline them; they’re so skilled on every line. If you put them on the power play you’ve got five super stars out there, so that’s something we’ll need to avoid, plus a good start will be key as usual.”
- Carey Price should make his 34th start of the season on Saturday night opposite the Pens, having tallied a 10-10-0-2 record in 22 career outings against Pittsburgh since 2007.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on TVA Sports and CBC.