- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday morning in preparation for their tilt against the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre.
- In his post-practice press conference, head coach Michel Therrien indicated that Tomas Fleischmann will take Lucas Lessio’s spot in the lineup on Monday night. Fleischmann has been a healthy scratch for the last two games. Meanwhile, Mark Barberio returns on the blue line in place of Tom Gilbert who went down with a lower-body injury against Philadelphia on Friday. Gilbert is listed as day-to-day.
- For his part, defenseman Jeff Petry was back on the ice again on Monday skating alongside his teammates. Petry continues to recover from a lower-body injury, having already missed the Canadiens’ last five games.
- Two months have passed since the Canadiens and Predators last met at Bridgestone Arena in the Music City, with Peter Laviolette’s contingent securing a 5-1 victory on Dec. 21. Now, Therrien’s troops find themselves in a must-win situation every single night with the regular season winding down and a playoff spot on the line. Fortunately, the Canadiens continue to play well in the friendly confines of the Bell Centre, having won four straight games in front of the home fans. They need to extend that streak on Monday night. Period.
“We just need to continue to develop the winning attitude we need to be successful. It’s important to get back to that winning culture that we have around here,” said Brendan Gallagher, who was unable to suit up against the Predators back in December due to injury. “Obviously, nobody enjoys losing hockey games. We have to do a lot of good things right to win in this league. Hopefully, we can build off of last game [against the Flyers]. It was a big win for us. Hopefully, we can carry that over.”
If the Canadiens have been sharp at home as of late, the Predators have been equally sharp on the road. They enter Monday night’s tilt riding a seven-game (5-0-2) road point streak, so it will be interesting to see the way the contest ultimately plays out.
“It’s important for us not to let up tonight and play the same way. We’re doing it for each other. That’s what it comes down to,” explained Gallagher. “You have to do your job and you count on the fact that your teammate is going to do the same thing.”
- There is no shortage of belief inside the Canadiens’ locker room these days, even if they currently sit eight points out of a wild card spot with 23 games to go. While some might see the Canadiens as “sellers” with the trade deadline just one week away, the players themselves aren’t about to adopt that philosophy anytime soon.
“I don’t like the term ‘seller’ or ‘buyer.’ The season hasn’t gone as planned, but we have one hell of a team here. We’ve got a really good core group. Seasons don’t always go the way you want them to. I like how there’s no panic and we’re not trying to do anything crazy that could hurt us in the future,” said Nathan Beaulieu, who has two goals and 17 points in 55 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “Everyone believes in each other. We’ve had that mentality since Day 1. There’s still some time to rebound on it.”
Gallagher is taking a similar approach in that regard.
“We obviously understand that the odds are against us, but we still have that belief as a collective. That’s the most important thing,” said Gallagher. “We know where we are, but we can’t look too far ahead of ourselves. Nobody’s giving up in here. Certainly, we know it’s going to be tough, but if anyone’s capable of doing it, we feel like we are.”
- Michel Therrien likes what he’s been seeing from Jacob De La Rose over the last couple of games. Installed at center on the Canadiens’ third line, the 20-year-old Swede has demonstrated a host of good attributes in his new role.
“He’s skating well and playing a good physical game. I really like what I’m seeing. We’re not putting any pressure on him from an offensive standpoint. That will come with time and confidence,” praised Therrien. “He’s reading and understanding the play well, too. He’s doing a lot of the little things that any coach would appreciate. We have a vision about where we want Jacob to be. Right now, he’s in a good spot as a third line centerman.”
De La Rose simply appreciates the opportunity to showcase his progress.
“When you feel good, you play with confidence. You play better, too. I feel good right now. I’ve just got to keep playing the right way,” explained De La Rose, who will play his seventh game of the season with the CH on Monday night. “I’m getting some opportunities to play on the PK. It’s been a good experience for me. I’ve just got to take this chance that they’re giving to me here and try to stay in the lineup and help the team win.”
- Mike Condon will get the start in goal for the Canadiens, while Pekka Rinne should get the call between the pipes for Nashville.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East and RDS.
Words From The Room: Feb. 22
Game Preview: Canadiens vs. Predators
Come on down, folks