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Game Day - Penguins - November 18

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- After a day off on Monday, the Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday morning ahead of their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.

- Prior to the start of the morning skate, forward Michael Bournival hit the ice with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine to continue his rehab work on a shoulder injury he sustained on November 5th in Buffalo against the Sabres.

- On Tuesday night, the Canadiens are going in search of a seventh straight victory. The last time the Habs registered a similar streak was back in 2006 when they picked up eight consecutive wins between March 23rd and April 6th.

“It’s a good challenge. We’re starting with the Penguins, and then we go up against the Blues on Thursday. They’re both quality teams. It gives us the opportunity to see where we stand in relation to them,” mentioned head coach Michel Therrien, who is pleased to see his group remain grounded amidst their current winning streak. “I don’t think our guys are getting too high. I get the sense that they want to keep improving and they know that there’s room for improvement, too. Every game presents a different challenge. What we’ve accomplished so far gives us a measure of added confidence heading into a game like this one. But, we want to keep getting better. It’s just so hard to win games in this league.”

- Therrien did not expand on any possible lineup changes on Tuesday morning, indicating that any and all changes would come around game time. Having fielded a lineup featuring seven defensemen over the last three games, the Canadiens bench boss insists his troops are perfectly at ease with the concept.

“Jean-Jacques [Daigneault] is doing excellent work when it comes to distributing ice time evenly. Certain defensemen are seeing their ice time go down, and we’re trying to share it as much as possible. That’s not a bad thing given the schedule we have right now,” offered Therrien, whose squad is averaging about one game every second day in the month of November. “We’re in a tough stretch and it’s important to distribute the workload amongst everybody.”

- Veteran rearguard Sergei Gonchar spent five seasons in a Penguins uniform over the course of his storied hockey career. The 20-year NHL veteran won his one and only Stanley Cup title with Pittsburgh back in 2009, so suiting up against his former club always brings back good memories. Nevertheless, Gonchar is adamant that when the puck drops, it’s all business.

“Playing against them is always special. I still have a lot of friends there. We won a Cup together, so it’s always going to be in my memory,” offered Gonchar, who has two assists in three games since donning the CH for the first time last Thursday night against Boston. “But, at the same time, it’s just a game when you step on the ice. You’re not really thinking about it. You’re just reacting to the game. It makes it special on one side, but on the other side, when you’re playing the game, you’re not really thinking about it.”

So, how does Gonchar suggest the Canadiens go about downing a Penguins club that has come out on top in nine of their last 10 games?

“They have the best power play in the league, so we have to be smart about penalties. I took a couple last game. I think I’m guilty of that,” explained Gonchar, referencing a Pittsburgh man advantage that has clicked 32.8 percent of the time on the season. “At the same time, we realize what we’re facing. They are so good, so we have to make sure that we’re skating out there, that there’s no hooking and grabbing and we’re playing up to the tempo of the game to make sure that we’re not taking any penalties.”

- The Canadiens’ current winning streak – and the manner in which Michel Therrien’s players have been securing those victories – is a good indication that the group, as a whole, has come together nicely since the start of the year. P.K. Subban believes a combination of things is ultimately responsible for the team’s success through 19 games.

“You have to understand that over the course of a season there are going to be ups and downs, both individually as players and as a team. You have to realize that and prepare for it. I think we’ve already had some downs and some ups. What you have to learn as a player in this league is to make sure that you’re staying at an even level and you’re not getting too high or too low,” confided Subban, who boasts five goals and 12 points on the year. “I think right now we’ve benefitted from our power play being great and a lot of attention is on that, but when I look at our team defense, I think we’ve done a great job on the penalty kill and at even-strength at clogging up the neutral zone. We’ve played some good teams, and our schedule really doesn’t get that much easier moving forward, but I think we’ve done a good job of playing sound defensive hockey. You don’t have that much success without playing good defense. We have to be prepared for whatever happens next, just to stick together as a team.”

- Two of the hottest goalies in the NHL should go head-to-head on Tuesday night. Carey Price, who was named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday, should get the start in goal for the Canadiens. Price currently sits tied for league lead in wins with 11 on the year. The Penguins will likely counter with Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 7-1 in his last eight starts, registering a 1.71 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage and three shutouts during that span.

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

Forward lines at the morning skate:

Pacioretty-Desharnais-Parenteau
Gallagher-Plekanec-Galchenyuk
Prust-Eller-Sekac
Weise-Malhotra-Bowman

SEE ALSO

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Game Preview: Penguins @ Canadiens
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