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Game Day - Red Wings - April 9

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday morning ahead of their game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre. Detroit sits third in the Atlantic Division with 97 points, nine points back of the Habs.

- Michel Therrien’s troops will be going for a regular season sweep of the Red Wings on Thursday night, having outscored Detroit by an 8-2 margin in their three previous meetings during the 2014-15 campaign. Should the Canadiens secure their 49th win of the year, it would mark the team’s first four-game sweep of the Michigan-based franchise since 1926-27 when they won all four contests against the Detroit Cougars.

“We’ve played some good hockey against them. I know they have some very skilled players over there. They’ve got a good power play. Sometimes, when you’re playing teams like that, you kind of get yourself going a little more and you’re maybe a little bit more focused,” offered Brandon Prust, who has one goal and two points in 10 career games against the Red Wings. “It seems like we’ve been like that against Detroit this year. We’ve got to continue to do that.”

That’s for sure. A victory tonight (or a regulation loss by Ottawa to the New York Rangers) will help the Red Wings clinch a playoff berth for the 24th consecutive season, which would match the fourth-longest streak in NHL history. It’s safe to say Mike Babcock’s contingent will be fired up to try to secure another postseason berth on their own.

“We need to take into account that we could go up against them in the playoffs,” stressed Prust, who leads all players on both teams with 132 penalty minutes on the year. “But, we especially need to focus on our game and not make any mistakes.”

- Unfortunately, the Canadiens won’t have Max Pacioretty in the lineup for the last two regular season games of the year after the New Canaan, CT native suffered an upper-body injury on Sunday. It will be the first time that Pacioretty isn’t in the lineup since November 1, 2013 – a span of 149 straight games. It also would’ve been the 400th game of his NHL career.

“He’s arguably our best player, so it’s always tough when you lose someone like that both offensively and defensively. He’s a big leader in the dressing room, too,” offered Prust. “But, we’ve got a good group in here. We’ve got a confident group. We have guys that are ready to fill in and do some penalty killing. We know we have guys that can put pucks in the net as well. Injuries happen and everybody has got to step up.”

In Pacioretty’s absence, Brian Flynn draws back in up front. He’s been a healthy scratch for the last three games. It will be his eighth game with the CH since coming on board at the trade deadline back in early March. That is the only expected lineup change.

“We’re pretty motivated. It’s been like playoff hockey the past stretch here, trying to get as many points as we can to make sure we finish ahead of the Lightning,” offered Flynn, whose squad sits atop the Atlantic Division entering Thursday night’s tilt, two points clear of Tampa Bay. “Every game has been big so far.”

- The Canadiens’ penultimate game of the regular season is also significant for several other reasons.

First and foremost, Thursday night’s tilt is another opportunity to play a sound game at both ends of the rink and fine tune any areas of concern heading into the opening round of the playoffs next week.

“It’s going to be a fun one. Last two games of the season, we’re really stressing how you want to end at the top of your game. We’ve got a good challenge tonight. They could be a contender in the playoffs for us. You always want to end on a peak,” explained Nathan Beaulieu, who will be playing his 63rd game of the season on the Canadiens’ back end. “We feel like we need to build a couple of things the next few games to end on a high. You want to hit the ground running when playoffs come. We feel like we can do a lot of damage in the playoffs, so we want to feel like we can prove a point the last two games.”

And, you know that helping Carey Price set a new team record for most wins in a single season is also on their collective minds, too.

“Everyone wants to help Pricer. He’s been great all year and since I’ve been here. The guys respect him a lot and what he’s done for the team this year and in the past,” mentioned Flynn, referencing Price’s bid to secure his 43rd win of the year. “Hopefully, we can get a W for him tonight.”

- Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal for the Red Wings. He will be looking for his third straight victory.

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

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