- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning in preparation for their tilt against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre.
- Thursday night’s home-opener will mark the first of three meetings between the two teams. Last season, Michel Therrien’s troops posted a 2-1-0 record against the Blueshirts.
- Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens, while Henrik Lundqvist will get the nod for New York. Price has been strong against the Rangers over the course of his career, posting a 10-5-1 record, a 1.86 goals-against average, and a .940 save percentage in 17 previous outings, along with six shutouts. For his part, Lundqvist is 14-13-2 in 30 career appearances against the Canadiens. He’s registered a 2.70 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage during that span.
- Following Thursday’s morning skate, the Canadiens were adamant that keeping their emotions in check early on will be an important key to victory against Alain Vigneault’s squad, especially on opening night.
“I think everybody’s excited, but we’ve got to find the right balance between being too excited and being ready to play. It’s a challenge for everybody. It’s hard to come home after four games on the road. We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves, but we’ve just got to stay humble,” explained Lars Eller, referencing the Canadiens’ perfect 4-0-0 record heading into their first game of the year on home ice. “We’re playing a very good team tonight. At the end of the day, it’s just another game once the puck drops.”
Eller is certainly right about the Rangers. They’ve started the season strong by winning their first three games before coming up short against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“They’re a good team. I expect them to come out hard. They’re well-coached and they work hard. They play their system, and they’ve got guys who can put the puck in the net. We have to be prepared to play our best game of the season tonight. No question,” shared P.K. Subban, who has four assists and a plus-5 differential through four games this season. “When we played them a few years ago in the playoffs, they came into our arena and they took it to us even though there was plenty of emotion in the building. We don’t expect them to take a step back because it’s our home opener. We have to be ready to play 60 minutes, and maybe even more.”
- Should the Canadiens pick up another W on Thursday night, they’d become the first team in franchise history to start a regular season campaign with five straight victories. While it might be a significant accomplishment, it really is the furthest thing from the players’ minds right now.
“It shouldn’t change anything. I’d rather be 4-0 than 0-4. There would be more pressure the other way around,” mentioned Eller, who has two goals on the year. “I think we’re in the position we want to be in. It would be nice to keep rolling and have a perfect record, but I think we’ve really got to look at it as we move on from what has happened in the past. We’ve got to start building a good home record.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss wouldn’t have his players thinking any other way.
“This is exactly where you don’t want to go. Like we were saying on Wednesday, we have to stay humble. We have to take one game at the time,” stressed Therrien. “I don’t want to think too far ahead. I’m only focused on tonight.”
- Subban was among many Canadiens players tuning in to the deciding game of the Toronto Blue Jays – Texas Rangers series on Wednesday afternoon to cheer on his hometown team. Needless to say, the result – and Jose Bautista’s noteworthy bat flip – put a big smile on the Norris Trophy winning rearguard’s face.
“It’s just great for Canada, and it’s great for people from Toronto and Blue Jays fans. Just being someone from Toronto, it’s great to be able to support a hometown team. Obviously, we know the relationship between the Habs and Leafs, so I’m happy to be able to support at least one of my hometown teams,” offered Subban, whose beloved Blue Jays moved on to the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals after posting a 6-3 victory over Texas at the Rogers Centre. “For Jose Bautista, it was a pretty special moment. He’s put in his time as a Blue Jay, and it’s good to see him get rewarded for all of the hard work he’s put in trying to do the best that he can to help the team win. He’s a passionate guy. I loved [his bat flip]. It’s a special moment. I hope he does it again. I thought it even made it that much better.”
With that in mind, will No. 76 be trying to imitate Bautista after lighting the lamp in the near future? Not necessarily.
“I don’t know if I can do a stick flip out there,” cracked Subban. “Maybe after a one-timer, you might flip the stick. I don’t know. That’s not really my style. I’ll leave the flipping to Joey Bats for now.”
- Opening ceremonies at the Bell Centre will begin at 7:30 p.m. EST, while puck drop is scheduled for approximately 7:45 p.m. The game will be broadcast on RDS and Sportsnet 360.
Probable lineup against the New York Rangers:
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