BROSSARD – In today’s notebook: an update on Desharnais, protecting netminders from the opposition and getting the power play back on track.
Making progress: After missing Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils with a flu virus, David Desharnais did not partake in practice on Wednesday morning at the Bell Sports Complex. Following the on-ice session, head coach Michel Therrien provided an update on his centerman’s health status ahead of the club’s departure on a two-game road trip to Ottawa and Toronto.
“David met with the doctor this morning and he’ll join the team in Ottawa,” explained the Habs bench boss on the subject of the Laurier-Station native. “We’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow morning, and if he’s feeling good he’ll step on the ice. We’ll make a decision on his playing status then. Right now, it’s too early to discuss it.”
Desharnais is the third Canadiens forward to be sidelined in the last 10 days after Alex Galchenyuk and Ryan White both suffered injuries. Despite counting on just 11 healthy forwards and using seven defensemen during the last two games, Therrien doesn’t expect any call-ups from Hamilton to take place going forward. Still, he admits that the success the Bulldogs are enjoying in the AHL has everyone in the organization feeling good.
“The team is playing well and we’re really happy about it,” offered Therrien, referencing Hamilton’s 19-15-0-4 record on the year. “I don’t want to get into details and start to list the names of particular players because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. One thing is certain, though, things are going very well in Hamilton.”
Protecting your goaltender: The New Jersey Devils didn’t hesitate to crash Carey Price’s crease on Tuesday night. In fact, they did it on multiple occasions, trying anything and everything to disrupt the Canadiens netminder. It’s not the first time this season that teams have tried to disturb Price’s concentration that way. Even though Michel Therrien would like to see it stop, he knows full well that a strategy like that isn’t unique to clubs like the Devils.
“The message from all 30 head coaches in the league [to their players] is to go to the net. At times, goals are disallowed because of it and sometimes they aren’t,” confided Therrien, who watched as his starting goaltender was hit particularly hard by Dainius Zubrus during Tuesday night’s tilt. “Our defensemen have a responsibility to keep opposing forwards away. But, the message the Devils tried to send yesterday isn’t any different than what teams around the league are saying, too. You’ll often score goals around the net. All teams are going about it the same way.”
That strategy almost paid dividends for the Habs against New Jersey, but Brendan Gallagher’s goal was eventually disallowed after the NHL sophomore was deemed to have intentionally kicked the puck into the Devils net. Well-aware that his squad needs to make its presence felt around opposing goaltenders to be successful in today’s NHL, Therrien certainly isn’t looking to discourage his players from doing so.
“It’s not easy for us, but we have to concentrate on what we can control, and that’s our team play. We need to be intense around the net on both sides of the ice,” said Therrien. “You want traffic in front of the other team’s net and you want your defensemen to win those battles in front of your net to protect your goalie.”
Power outage: The Canadiens’ power play isn’t clicking right now, but that doesn’t have Michel Therrien nor his troops pressing the proverbial panic button. Despite the fact that the Habs haven’t lit the lamp with the man advantage over their last five games and have gone 0-for-17 during that span, the feeling in the locker room is that the tide will turn so long as staff and players keep plugging away at finding a solution.
“We’re not standing here with our arms crossed, and hoping that it will get going again. We’re working very hard at it,” offered Therrien, whose squad last tallied a power play marker back on Jan. 2 in Dallas. “We’re having meetings with the guys. We’re working on it in morning skates. It’s something that we’re really focusing on and we’re expecting that it will get back on track soon.”
That’s something P.K. Subban is adamant about, too. The reigning Norris Trophy winner, who leads the Canadiens with 15 power play points, insists there’s no reason to believe the bleu-blanc-rouge won’t be a significant threat when up a man in the not so distant future.
“I’m not too worried about it. I think that we’re moving the puck well, we’re creating opportunities. This time of year, it’s tough. Teams are bearing down. We need a bounce here or there, but I’m not too worried about it,” underlined Subban, who boasts three power play goals on the season. “Our power play has always been good, and it’s going to continue to be good. Right now, we just have to continue to do the right things. The puck’s not going in for us, but it will.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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