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Game Day - Senators - February 18

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held an optional game day skate at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Wednesday.


- Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and P.K. Subban were the only players absent from practice.

- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed on Tuesday that Dustin Tokarski will be in goal against the Sens. The 25-year-old netminder will make his 12th start this season, entering Wednesday’s contest with a 91.4% save percentage and 2.67 goals against average.

Following injuries to Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson, Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond meanwhile will make his first career NHL start on Wednesday against the Habs. The 27-year-old backup entered Monday’s game against Carolina in relief of Lehner most recently, giving up two goals on five shots over 21 minutes of ice time to the visiting Hurricanes.

“Whenever you’re facing a guy in that type of situation, you need to shoot as often as possible and hope to get an early goal,” prescribed Habs sniper Max Pacioretty, who has already found the back of the net 26 times this season. “Getting shots on goal will keep him on edge and we need to find a way to do that tonight.”

- Called up from Hamilton on Sunday, defenseman Greg Pateryn will make his 2014-15 Canadiens debut on Wednesday. Despite getting his first NHL action since the 2012-13 season, Pateryn should nevertheless be able to find a familiar face on the ice in Ottawa.

“I think I’ll be paired with Nathan Beaulieu tonight. We have good chemistry thanks to the two years we spent in Hamilton together. I always know where he is on the ice because he’s a good communicator and he’s going to be a big help for me tonight,” acknowledged Pateryn, who replaces veteran Mike Weaver on the blue line. “My game has changed since a year ago. I’ve refined certain things which have allowed me to get this chance, and now it’s up to me to prove that I belong here.”

- Therrien also made one change up front, confirming that forward Jiri Sekac will be back in the lineup in place of Manny Malhotra.

“We wanted to give him a bit of a break so that he could come back as a better player. We gave him some time to work on his passing and forechecking,” explained the Habs bench boss of the 6-foot-2, 195-pound winger who returns to the lineup for the first time since February 12. “We did something similar at the start of the season and it worked out well for us. Now we’re hoping that he’ll respond the same way tonight.”

With just 47 games of NHL experience under his belt, Sekac knows a permanent roster spot is still his to earn, but the 22-year-old Czech is also fortunate enough to count on sufficient previous experience to be up for the challenge.

“I don’t consider myself a rookie. This is my fourth year as a professional hockey player so I should be mentally strong and I know how to deal with situations like these,” continued Sekac, who played three seasons in the KHL before arriving in Montreal this year. “Obviously it’s never easy to be benched but I’m just happy to get another chance and now I’ll do my best to make the most of it.”

- Ranked fourth in the NHL with a 85.4% penalty kill efficiency, the Habs have not only found success in protecting their own defensive zone this season, but have also been able to create scoring chances – even when down a man – thanks to the presence of players like Pacioretty and Plekanec.

“A lot of strategy goes into a functioning P.K. unit, even though sometimes it might look like we’re just reacting to what’s happening on the ice,” described Pacioretty, who has taken on additional defensive responsibilities this season, which have in turn paid off with a plus-29 differential. “I just need to work on mixing things up a little bit now to surprise the other team and create even more scoring chances. We’ve had a lot already, but we’re getting more with every shift.”

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