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Armia inches closer to a return

Finnish winger was back on the ice with his teammates in Brossard on Tuesday, but is highly doubtful to face the Blackhawks

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - After having defenseman Ben Chiarot return to action on Monday against Calgary, Habs fans were greeted to more good news when forward Joel Armia took to the ice for a regular practice with his teammates at the Bell Sports Complex on Tuesday.

Armia was in a grey jersey and alternated with Nick Cousins on a line with Ryan Poehling and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and confirmed to reporters after the skate that he had been cleared for contact at practice.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Un gars content d'��tre de retour. 😁This guy's happy to be back.#GoHabsGo

Still, there is no fixed date for his return, as the Habs' No. 40 is still healing up from the upper-body injury he suffered in Winnipeg in late December.

"I felt pretty good. I haven't been at practice for three weeks or something, but I felt good," shared Armia, who has 12 goals for 21 points in 35 games this season. "There's no timeline for me coming back, so I'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Video: Joel Armia on his recovery progress

In his post-practice media availability, Claude Julien explained that Armia is in excellent shape and his conditioning is not the reason why he isn't ready to go just yet. The Canadiens head coach said Armia was day-to-day but was highly doubtful to take part in Wednesday night's tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: L'entra��neur-chef Claude Julien affirme que Joel Armia s'approche d'un retour au jeu, mais ne devrait pas ��tre en uniforme demain.Head coach Claude Julien says that Armia is getting close to a return, but that he likely won't be available for tomorrow night's game.#GoHabsGo

Home is where the heart is

Speaking of the Bell Centre, one of the topics of the day in Brossard on Tuesday was the Habs' record on home ice after they won their first game there the night before in six tries.

After presenting the seventh-best home showing last season, Montreal's 9-11-4 record at the Bell Centre in 2019-20 is third-worst in the NHL, and the players know they need to be better in front of their own fans.

"I don't know why we're having trouble at home. Some bad bounces, and sometimes it's just like that in a season - you're better on the road or at home," posited Victoriaville native Phillip Danault. "But it's for sure an area of our game we have to improve. At home, we have to use the energy of the crowd."

Video: Phillip Danault on the need to win more at home

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Stay safe and stay hydrated, Phil.#GoHabsGo | @Cous27

Before becoming a Hab, Nate Thompson played 15 games as a visitor to the Bell Centre and is all too familiar with the boost that opposing players get from playing in hockey-mad Montreal.

The veteran center believes the key to countering the extra skip in opponents' step is to keep things simple.

"Coming into our building as a road team... I've been on the other side, and it's pretty easy to get up for it," outlined Thompson. "I know it's no excuse, but I think we do have to do a better job of playing that road-style game - not being worried about being flashy or showing off to the fans, but just getting the job done."

Video: Nate Thompson on Kovalchuk's early success in MTL

More love for Kovy

The last time Thompson played in Montreal as a visitor, he witnessed then-Kings teammate Ilya Kovalchuk register eight shots on goal in Los Angeles' 3-0 win over the Habs in their home opener in October 2018.

And while things didn't end up working out for the Russian sniper in California, Thompson isn't the least bit surprised that he's fit in so seamlessly with the Canadiens.

"I'm not [surprised], actually. It wasn't a good fit there. I kind of had a feeling it'd be a good fit here. He's been great. He's been good in locker room, guys have enjoyed having him around and being on the ice," Thompson said of Kovalchuk, who logged 21:13 of ice time, including 3:38 on the power play, and registered two shots on net on Monday against Calgary. "Poehls [Ryan Poehling] scored yesterday, and [Kovalchuk] looked like the happiest guy on the bench. That's the kind of guy he is, so it's been a really good fit and he's been really good for us."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: La 1re ��toile du match d'hier soir. 🌟Last night's 1st star of the game.#GoHabsGo | @LilUziPoehlss

The Canadiens are scheduled to hold a morning skate at 10:30 a.m. in Brossard on Wednesday ahead of their 7:30 p.m. date with the Blackhawks. For tickets to that game, click here.

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