- After a day off on Wednesday, the Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard ahead of Thursday night’s tilt against the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.
- All players were present and accounted for at practice. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was featured on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk. He will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Thursday night after being a healthy scratch for the last four games. Manny Malhotra and Brian Flynn will likely be the healthy scratches up front, while Alexei Emelin and Mike Weaver likely won’t suit up on the back end.
- Sergei Gonchar will play his 1,300th career NHL game on Thursday night. Gonchar ranks second in League history for the most games played by any Russian-born player, 16 games back of Alexei Kovalev.
- It’s safe to say that Parenteau’s return was the big story at Thursday’s morning skate. The 31-year-old, who last saw game action last week in San Jose, has clearly been chomping at the bit to play in front of the Bell Centre faithful, something he hasn’t done since December 20 against these same Ottawa Senators.
“I think it’s been about three months since I’ve played a game at the Bell Centre, so I’m excited to get back into the lineup and to help my teammates,” offered Parenteau, who has been limited to playing just 41 games this season after suffering multiple concussions back in January. “I’m motivated to get back to playing. I’ve definitely been looking forward to it. It will be fun to get back to work at the Bell Centre. The team is playing well at home. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
It certainly hasn’t been easy for the Canadiens’ No. 15 to watch from the sidelines as of late, particularly after being given the green light to return to active duty prior to the team’s most recent road trip out to California and Arizona.
“You get your confidence back when you play good minutes and you make good plays. Right now, my confidence isn’t at its highest point, but I think it will come back pretty quickly,” confided Parenteau, who is dead set on making every single outing count as the regular season winds down. “Fifteen games isn’t a lot, but it’s a good chance to prove myself, get back on track and win my spot back. I haven’t had the season I wanted to date. Before I got hurt, I don’t think I was necessarily playing up to the level that I could. There are 15 games left to prove what I can do. I fully intend to do that.”
- The decision to give Parenteau a shot against Ottawa wasn’t a difficult one for head coach Michel Therrien, who spoke with the veteran forward prior to Thursday’s on-ice session.
“You always have to find the right time to bring a player back into the lineup. Tonight is the right time to get him back in there,” offered Therrien. “I had a good conversation with him this morning about the expectations that we have for him. You don’t always judge a player in terms of goals, assists and offensive production. You also have to look at the smaller details and his work ethic. He’s very excited to play again and that’s the way it should be. I wanted to be clear with him. I want him to be intense and to be involved in the game. When a player does that, usually good things happen.”
- Winners of eight of their last 10 games, Dave Cameron’s contingent has been cruising in recent weeks. They’ve also bested Michel Therrien’s troops in their last two meetings, outscoring the Canadiens by an 8-3 margin during that span. That’s a streak the CH will be looking to snap on Thursday night, and they’ll have to solve Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond to do it.
“It’s all a question of execution with the puck and putting pressure on the opposition. Those are the basic principles that you have to apply in a game to have success,” stressed Therrien. “You have to get back to basics. You need to see the situation as a whole. We did good things in our last game and in the game in Arizona. If it wasn’t for their goalie, we would’ve scored more goals. In Los Angeles, we were just 45 seconds away from the win and we played a good game in Anaheim, too. When I take a step back, I can see that the guys are competing.”
- Carey Price will make his 55th start of the season on Thursday night. He boasts a 17-6-4 record, a .922 save percentage and a 2.30 goals-against average in 29 career regular season outings against Ottawa.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS, Sportsnet East and TSN5.
Projected lineup vs. Ottawa:
Gallagher – Desharnais – Pacioretty
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Parenteau
Smith-Pelly – De La Rose – Eller
Prust – Mitchell – Weise
Malhotra – Flynn
Subban – Markov
Gonchar – Beaulieu
Petry – Gilbert
Emelin – Weaver