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Game Day – Penguins – January 9

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday morning in preparation for their tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.

- Forwards David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Torrey Mitchell and Paul Byron didn’t hit the ice.

- On Friday, head coach Michel Therrien announced that defenseman Jeff Petry would be absent from the lineup against Pittsburgh. Petry is out with a lower-body injury. He will be replaced by Greg Pateryn. The Canadiens’ bench boss also confirmed that Mike Condon would make his second straight start after picking up the win against the New Jersey Devils in his previous outing on Wednesday night. For his part, Tomas Fleischmann will once again be a healthy scratch.

Brian Flynn knows a strong start against the Penguins will be one of several keys to victory on Saturday night.

- After watching the last three games from the press box, Greg Pateryn will get a chance to suit up for the first time since Dec. 29 against the Florida Panthers. He’ll play alongside a familiar face in Nathan Beaulieu, who was his primary defense partner in 2013-14 while the two were plying their trade with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

“We have a lot of chemistry, so I think we’ll be able to read off each other. We know what each of us does best. He’s a really good skater with the puck. I’ll be there to support him. I think vice-versa, too,” shared Pateryn, who will be playing his 11th game of the season on Saturday night. “If we’re able to read off each other, I think we’ll be good.”

Even though the pair has played just 10 minutes alongside one another during the 2015-16 campaign, Beaulieu believes getting back in sync won’t necessarily be that tough. Still, they’ll have to come together quickly against a Penguins squad boasting some of the top offensive threats in the NHL.

“We played well together [in Hamilton]. It’s not unknown waters for us,” offered Beaulieu, who has two goals and 12 points in 41 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “We know what to expect. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, especially not being together the last couple of games coming into a crucial game.”

- Teams talk about the importance of playing a disciplined brand of hockey and staying out of the penalty box all the time. Given the Penguins’ recent success on the power play, it’s extra important for the Canadiens to stay true to that philosophy on Saturday night. Over their last five games, Mike Sullivan’s squad has clicked with the man advantage 35 percent of time, notching six goals in their last 17 power play opportunities.

“We talked about their power play this morning. Staying out of the box is going to be huge for us. Their Top 6 are dynamic. They’re going to kill you on special teams,” admitted Beaulieu, referencing the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. “We don’t want to get in a special teams battle with them tonight. It’s important for us to stay 5-on-5.”

Special teams play proved to be the key to Wednesday night’s win over New Jersey as Max Pacioretty scored on the power play before Torrey Mitchell lit the lamp with a short-handed tally. It certainly wouldn’t hurt their cause to be just as efficient in special teams situations tonight.

“It’s a big part of the game these days because everything is so tight when we’re playing 5-on-5 hockey,” admitted defenseman Mark Barberio, who is averaging 13:30 of ice time per game in five games with the Canadiens this season. “We really have to capitalize on our chances with the power play.”

- The Canadiens believe another key to Saturday night’s game would be getting off to a strong start. Their counterparts are coming off back-to-back losses to the Chicago Blackhawks, so they’ll undoubtedly be fired up to try to set the tone early. Affording the Penguins any opportunity to seize momentum isn’t a recipe for success.

“Every game, every point is important for us. We’re in playoff mode. We have to play consistent hockey when we come out of the gates. I feel like we’ve let down the first period the next game after a win. Our start is very important,” explained Brian Flynn, who has four goals and 10 points on the year. “When we have a good start and score first, we’ve been a very good team this year.”

- Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in goal for Pittsburgh.

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

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