- The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Thursday in preparation for the evening’s game against the New York Rangers.
- Gabriel Dumont, called up from Hamilton on Tuesday, was on the ice with his teammates in New York but will be a healthy scratch against the Rangers.
- Defenseman Mike Weaver will also sit out a third game in a row, as head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Tuesday’s lineup against the Stars will remain intact on Thursday at MSG.
- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau did not make the trip to New York. The 31-year-old winger has been sidelined with a concussion over the last three games.
- Having now scored eight power play goals in the last five games, the Canadiens are currently enjoying success from a power play unit which continues to click following a slow start to the season.
“We needed the power play to be better and lately it has been,” admitted Brendan Gallagher, who capitalized on the man advantage on Tuesday against Dallas to score his 12th goal of the season. “It’s been a big reason why we’re winning games – we’ve been getting big power play goals, timely power play goals – but we know it can go the other way just as quickly. It’s going to be important for us to continue doing what we’re doing which is keeping it simple and getting traffic and pucks at the net.”
Despite the recent success for a team which at one point went without a power play goal over a ten game stretch from October 21 to November 11, the Habs aren’t about to put all their pucks in one basket, preferring to still keep in mind the importance of a balanced attack.
“It’s always just a matter of time before things finally click, and right now we’re hot,” explained forward David Desharnais, who has racked up 17 special teams points this season. “We might not be able to maintain a 30 or 40% power play efficiency forever, but the important thing is to find a way to stay productive every game regardless.”
- Winners of a 3-1 decision over the Rangers at the Bell Centre in October, the Habs have nevertheless struggled when on the road in the Big Apple recently, having seen their season end at MSG last spring before later being blanked 5-0 during their first trip back this November.
“Last time we came in here on the moms trip we put up a poor showing, and we also weren’t happy with the result that we had in this building at the end of the playoffs last year,” acknowledged Max Pacioretty, a native of New Canaan, CT, located just over an hour outside of Manhattan. “Sometimes as a player you want to feel comfortable in certain buildings and this is one where we feel like we might have to turn the page and start over. Tonight’s a good chance for that because going down the road we’re going to see this team a lot being in the same conference and potentially meeting again in the playoffs in the future, so it’s important for us to feel comfortable here.”
- Goaltender Carey Price will get the the start against the Rangers and the Habs will be hoping to lessen Price’s workload in New York after allowing 42 shots on goal against the Stars on Tuesday. With an average of 30.2 shots per game this season, the Rangers are currently ranked 12th league-wide when it comes to putting pucks on net, while also coming off a 41-shot performance against the rival Islanders on Tuesday.
“We can’t keep counting on Carey to bail us out. We know he’s a big part of our success this season, be we can’t keep giving up 40 shots per game,” offered Therrien in regards to his all-star netminder who has allowed just three goals over the last 79 shots he’s faced. “We’re playing against a team that gets a lot of shots, so it’s going to be a challenge for us tonight. Even though they didn’t win their last game, they were still able to put up 40-plus shots against a good Islanders team. They’re aggressive with the puck and a tough team to play against.”
- Thursday’s game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. star on RDS and Sportsnet.