BUFFALO -- The Canadiens held an optional practice at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on Friday morning ahead of their game against the Sabres. Sixteen players were on the ice, with Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Torrey Mitchell, Tom Gilbert, and Tomas Plekanec opting not to skate.
Nathan Beaulieu joined the team on the ice near the end of practice, after having left Tuesday’s game early after blocking a shot.
|Ben Scrivens will get the start against the Sabres. |
Before leaving Montreal, Michel Therrien confirmed that Ben Scrivens would get the start for a fourth-straight game. The 29-year-old netminder is set to face the Sabres for the seventh time in his career and owns a 2.83 goals-against average and .908 save percentage all-time against Buffalo. This will mark the third time in his career that Scrivens has started four consecutive games.
“Ben is doing well. He’s part of the winning recipe right now. He’s helping us win games and we don’t want to change anything at this point,” said Therrien on his decision to stick with Scrivens between the pipes.
Greg Pateryn will suit up for his 12th game of the campaign on Friday night, returning to the lineup against the Sabres to mark his first game action since January 9. The 25-year-old blue-liner has been a healthy scratch for 14 of the last 15 games and has played just one since January 1, but he’s looking to make a seamless transition back into the fray in Buffalo.
|Greg Pateryn will make his return to action in Buffalo. |
“I’m definitely excited. I’ve been waiting a while. It gets to you, but I think what differentiates some players from others is being able to be mentally strong when you hit a speed bump in the road,” stressed Pateryn. “I wasn’t going to let it slow me down. I’m looking forward to tonight. I’m going to try to get myself into the game early, but stay smart and stay in position. I know how to play an effective game so I’ll stick with my plan.”
While Therrien wouldn’t confirm whether or not Paul Byron would return against Buffalo, citing him as a game-time decision, he did explain what he expects from Pateryn in his first game in over a month.
“We know he might be a little rusty. It’s been a long time,” mentioned Therrien, who will be without the services of Beaulieu in Buffalo. “You have to practice hard and keep a good attitude and he’s managed to do that, but it will still take some time to get his timing back in a game situation. Execution is a lot faster in games than in practices. He’ll have to keep things simple.”
Birthday boy Alex Galchenyuk is hoping to ring in the big 2-2 in style in Buffalo, looking to build on his line’s stellar play of late. Combining for 13 points in the last three games with linemates Tomas Plekanec (3G, 4A) and Brendan Gallagher (2G, 2A), the trio has been the team’s hottest threesome during the current win streak.
“Sometimes you can be playing the same way but you don’t get the bounces. Then when you do get the bounces, people start thinking that you’re playing differently,” said Galchenyuk, who has 12 goals and 32 points in 55 games this season. “[Plekanec] is confident. We’ve all had some tough times over the course of this year, but he definitely stepped up when he needed to. He’s a great leader on this team and he’s playing like it. He’s making plays, he’s playing solid defensively, and he’s doing everything we need him to do. We have to keep going. We’ve had some recent success over the last couple of games, but it’s almost playoffs and we know we can’t make any mistakes. We have to stick together and keep doing what we’ve done to help the team.”
Responding to rumors that circulated earlier in the day that Carey Price wouldn’t be back during the 2015-16 season, Therrien reiterated that there has been no change or update in the All-Star netminder’s status during his rehab process. The reigning Hart, Vezina, Ted Lindsay and Jennings Trophy winner has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since November 27.
“We know there’s going to be speculation – that’s our market. We know what’s going on with Carey Price,” underlined the Habs bench boss. “It’s taken longer than we expected, but the work he’s putting in, the hours he’s putting in, the effort he’s putting in, that’s not just to maintain his beach body. He’s working extremely hard to come back to play.”
Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. ET at First Niagara Center. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East, RDS, TSN 690 and 98,5 FM.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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