The Canadiens held an optional morning skate on Tuesday ahead of the evening matchup against the Minnesota Wild.
Tomas Plekanec was the first player out, and practiced picking corners with his snap shot from the faceoff dot. Carey Price, Peter Budaj and Michael Bournival joined him on the ice soon thereafter.
Despite the session being optional, players took to the ice in large numbers. Only Travis Moen, Ryan White, P.K. Subban and Rene Bourque preferred to take a treatment day rather than skate with the team.
The players worked on 2 vs. 1 flow drills in an effort to polish their offensive instincts. They wrapped up practice by doing shooting drills at both ends of the ice.
Carey Price was first off the ice, indicating that he will start for the Canadiens.
Head coach Michel Therrien shuffled the team’s forward lines at the previous practice, reuniting Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher. The trio had much success together during the 2012-13 season and was the most often used line by the coaching staff.
“This is what coaching is all about, trying to find different combinations. We work with the players and we want them to be successful,” offered Therrien after the morning skate. “These are guys who have played together and have had success in the past, so we are looking for that chemistry tonight.”
“We’ll try to create some momentum for the team,” vowed winger Brendan Gallgher. “I saw Davey’s shootout goal from my hotel room last week and was really happy for him. He’s a great passer and he can find you wherever you are on the ice, so I hope it’ll be the case tonight.”
Elsewhere, the Habs bench boss intends to keep rookie Michael Bournival and veteran Daniel Briere on the same line. The players generated some offensive punch together despite playing fourth-line minutes against the Rangers on Saturday.
“I liked what I saw from them. They had some quality scoring chances. One thing I like to see from a fourth line is an ability to control the puck and spend a lot of time in the opposing zone and this line can do that,” acknowledged Therrien.
Looking forward to Tuesday night’s game, the head coach made sure to give kudos to the visiting team, who is 13-4-4 on the strength of goaltender Josh Harding’s play.
“With all the adversity that Harding has gone through, you have to admire his courage and his ability to perform at such a high level despite his illness. I tip my hat to him. At the same time, it’s a challenge for us. The Wild does not allow many scoring chances and are able to capitalize on their chances. That’s why they are having a lot of success,” concluded Therrien.
It will be the second of two season meetings between the Habs and the Wild; the Minnesotans having won the game on November 1st by a score of 4 to 3.
“Every game is different, but when you’ve played against a team already, you know what to expect,” stated defenseman Josh Gorges. “Seeing how they’ve been playing recently, it’s not hard to imagine why they’re having so much success. We’ll have to focus on our game to go get two points tonight.”
Game preview: Canadiens vs. Wild