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Notebook - December 2

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – In Wednesday’s notebook, Nathan Beaulieu talks fighting, the Canadiens ready themselves for the Capitals, and words of praise for Michel Therrien.

Tough as nails: Nathan Beaulieu wasn’t about to let a punch to the face slow him down at practice on Wednesday. Less than 24 hours after coming out on the losing end of a toe-to-toe battle with Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, the 22-year-old rearguard took part in every facet of the on-ice session and showed absolutely no signs of suffering any serious injury during the bout.

Nathan Beaulieu was back at practice on Wednesday after dropping the gloves with Columbus' Nick Foligno.

“I got a little banged up, but luckily I’m fine. I’m good to go,” shared Beaulieu, who elected to drop the gloves with Foligno at the 10:56 mark of the second period after seeing him throw a potentially dangerous knee-to-knee hit on Tomas Fleischmann. “I didn’t lose consciousness or anything. It’s a hockey fight. I’ve been hit in the face multiple times in my life. I’ve been knocked down. When a tough guy like that hits you hard in the face, it’s going to happen. Luckily, there was no damage.”

That was confirmed by the Canadiens’ medical staff during the ensuing intermission. Beaulieu was evaluated, and then returned to play the final 20 minutes of the game. If anyone was questioning the team’s decision to give the Strathroy, ON native the green light to finish the tilt, head coach Michel Therrien was quick to put a stop to that following Wednesday’s on-ice session.

“The Montreal Canadiens followed the [concussion] protocol to the letter. We’re a family,” stressed Therrien, who wasn’t at all pleased with some of the comments made in the aftermath of the Beaulieu-Foligno tussle. “You can debate things like lines and trades, for example. That makes for good discussion. That’s part of Quebec culture. But, what bothers me is when you start to doubt the integrity of the people responsible for ensuring the safety of our players. I have a tough time accepting that.”

According to Beaulieu, it won’t be the last time you’ll see him go head-to-head with a player on an opposing team. It’s an important part of his game, and he isn’t about to back down from any future opportunities to either defend himself, stick up for his teammates or generate momentum for his squad with his fists.

“That’s who I am. That’s how I was raised. It’s just in me. Coach talks about it every game, about being a good teammate. We take it upon ourselves to be good teammates. I didn’t necessarily like what happened. I thought it was a good thing to do. It would have been nice to be on the other side of the fight, but it’s not always about how the fight ends,” explained Beaulieu, who now has five fighting majors in the NHL ranks on his resume. “I know the guys responded well to it. It’s not going to change my game at all. I’m not afraid to do it. There aren’t going to be any nerves about doing it again.”

Bring on the Caps: It’s safe to say the Washington Capitals have enjoyed their road trips to Montreal in recent years. Since 2009-10, they’ve amassed a 9-0-2 regular-season record against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, and they arrive in town this time around riding a five-game winning streak.

Michel Therrien’s troops are well aware of the tough test Barry Trotz’s club will offer up on Thursday night. If they’re going to come out on top, they’ll definitely have to stay out of the penalty box with Washington’s power play clicking 26.8 percent of the time. That’s good enough for second in the league in that category behind the Boston Bruins.

P.K. Subban believes the Washington Capitals will be the Canadiens' toughest test so far this season.

“They’re a good team. We know they have some weapons. They’re a lot different than when I first came into the league in terms of the way they play. They play a hard-checking, grinding game, kind of similar to the way we play. They try to wear you down, grind you down. They play well defensively and they have a good system,” mentioned P.K. Subban, who has gone up against the Capitals 16 times over the course of his NHL career during the regular season. “For the most part, they’re pretty disciplined. I think the key for us is going to be staying disciplined and matching their intensity. They play with a lot of jam. It’s definitely going to be our toughest challenge of the season, in my opinion. With them coming into our barn, we’ve definitely got to be prepared to play our best game.”

In other words, making mistakes of any kind is simply not an option.

“That’s a strong hockey team that’s playing really well. It will be a good test of character,” shared Therrien, who will try to guide his team to its 20th win of the year on Thursday night. “We want to be considered winners. We’re taking games one at a time. We’ll have to be perfect with and without the puck.”

Leader of men: There’s no denying the impact Michel Therrien has had on the Canadiens since his second stint behind the bench began back in 2012-13. Not only has the CH been among the league’s top regular-season squads in recent years, but they’ve also managed to make good strides in the playoffs, too.

His players certainly recognize what the veteran bench boss brings to the table every single day.

Devante Smith-Pelly says head coach Michel Therrien brings good structure to the group for every game.

“A lot of guys who’ve been playing here since he’s come in – guys like Carey and Patch and Pleky, Gally and Chucky, even Weiser and other guys who’ve come into the fold – you can see their game has gone to another level. That’s the biggest part of the reason why our team is where it is now. It’s not because of one or two players, it’s because collectively as a group we’ve all taken strides and gotten better,” praised Subban, who is enjoying another remarkable start to a season with 21 points in 26 games. “A big part of that is Michel and Berg [GM Marc Bergevin] bringing in the right guys, but also sort of making sure that the mentality of this organization and the players is focused on winning. That’s the expectation. When you have that type of feeling around the room, it helps with growth.”

If Subban has learned quite a bit from Therrien over the years, newcomer Devante Smith-Pelly also admits that he’s enjoyed his time working with one’s of the league’s top coaching minds in their short time together.

“It definitely helps when a guy you can trust can tap you on the back and say ‘Good job’ or ‘You need to pick it up’. I want to play for him,” offered Smith-Pelly, who was acquired last February in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. “I’ve only played for a few coaches, but the structure and the way he gets guys to play, it’s amazing. You see when we’re on our game and we’re doing what he asks, we’re a tough team to beat. His structure and the way he prepares us are really great. I noticed that from Day 1.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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