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No Sleep 'till Brooklyn

Habs aim to kick off All-Star break on a good note

by Joanie Godin. Translated by Steven Nechay @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com

BROSSARD -- There's just one game left to play before the All-Star break, and Michel Therrien's men are set on making it count.

Even if they will be without the services of Alex Galchenyuk (knee) once again, on Thursday in Brooklyn.

"The stretch is still going. We have a very important game coming up and we want to head into the break with some momentum. It's going to be important for us to play a full 60 [minutes] and build off of our last game," underlined captain Max Pacioretty, before catching a flight to the Big Apple on Wednesday. "It wasn't perfect [on Tuesday], but we like the way we're heading, especially with the injuries [we have] and the amount of games we've been playing. We like the way we're going and we've just got to keep at it. Obviously there are going to be some long stretches -- and this is one of them -- so we've just got to bear down."

Same story from Nathan Beaulieu.

Video: Beaulieu on playing one last game before the break

"I think we're all excited. We know we have one more job to do, but the guys deserve and are looking forward to some time off," added the young defenseman. "It's been a grind this season with the condensed schedule because of the bye week and the World Cup. But for now, we've got one more job to do."

THE PERFECT PAIR

Therrien praised the work of defensive duo Alexei Emelin and Shea Weber following practice on Wednesday.

"I've liked this pairing from the moment we put them together. They have huge assignments, night after night, but they're two guys who love a challenge," explained the Habs bench boss during his post-practice presser. "They're tough to play against. They're physical, and they're rarely out of position. It's a game of errors, and if you're not out of position, it means you're doing your job. What I appreciate most is that they always make the best play available. Nothing complicated -- just simple and efficient."

Weber and Emelin are two of the three most utilized Habs this season, the former leading with an average of 25:41 of ice time per night, and the latter coming in third at 21:49.

Video: Therrien on the young players

NATE THE GREAT

While Andrei Markov remains sidelined by injury, Beaulieu has made the most of the opportunity he's been given on the blue line.

"It's been good. I've been given an opportunity here with Marky banged up, so I'm just trying to take advantage of it. They've given me a lot of trust, and I'm trying to run with it. If you look at my last three years, my defensive game is black-and-white from the time I arrived here to now," acknowledged the 24-year-old, who nevertheless insists his best is yet to come. "They're pleased with my defensive play -- that was the biggest challenge in adapting to the League -- so I've learned a lot and I'm just trying to go with it."

His more experienced partner on the back end has also seen the difference firsthand.

"He's definitely taken a big step up this year. He's playing big minutes in all situations, and I think he's been handling it well," dished Jeff Petry, who for his own part, is on track for a career-year with 24 points already in the bank. "He's an easy guy to play with, thanks to his speed with the puck."

Video: Petry on playing with Beaulieu
 
NEW COACH, NEW THREAT

The Canadiens won their first meeting with the Islanders this season, 3-2 in Brooklyn, on October 26. On Thursday, the Habs will face a "different" Isles squad, after head coach Jack Capuano was replaced by Doug Weight.

"They're playing with a lot of energy right now. A lot of teams are fighting for a playoff spot, so tomorrow won't be easy," admitted Therrien. "We'll have to focus on the right things."
 
The Islanders have won three and lost one since making the change behind the bench four games ago.

"Any time a coach gets fired, it's not necessarily his fault. It's kind of a wake-up call for the team. The message was sent. You can't fire 20 guys, so unfortunately the blame has to fall on someone else," said Beaulieu. "I think they're inspired right now. In the last four games without him they've been really good, so we have a good test coming up."

Carey Price will get the start in goal at the Barclays Center before heading to Los Angeles, where he'll captain the Atlantic division at the NHL All-Star Game.

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