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Novel times

Habs players are trying to take a business-as-usual approach as talk about the novel coronavirus ramps up on the North American pro sports scene

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - For a third straight day, the Canadiens' media availability had a different look as a result of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that's been making headlines across the globe.

With journalists no longer permitted into locker rooms in the NHL, NBA, MLB, and MLS, Habs players were brought to the press conference room at the Bell Sports Complex to answer questions following practice on Wednesday.

The change in interview setup may be a major difference for the players and media alike, but other measures taken for the Canadiens behind the scenes are not much different than what's been done for other major health outbreaks.

"They're taking the same precautions as when the flu bug is going around: make sure that you're always washing your hands, covering your mouth when you're breathing," described Jeff Petry. "It's just the normal protocol when the flu bug is around, we're taking the same steps as that."

And although pro sports leagues and various governments have been making decisions on whether to cancel or postpone large gatherings in the wake of COVID-19, Petry says the current circumstances have not done too much to distract him from playing hockey.

"I don't think so. Everyone knows the situation, whether you're working in an office or us coming to the rink. When we show up, it's the same for us every day: show up and work," added the 32-year-old father of three. "And until we're told otherwise, that's what we're doing. I don't think it consumes us to the point where we can't think about our jobs on the ice."

Video: Petry and Armia on the coronavirus situation

For his part, Phillip Danault - who became a dad just over a year ago - admits there's been a bit more concern going around his household of late.

"My wife is really scared. She's always getting me to wash my hands. We have a young child, so we don't want me to bring the virus home," explained Danault. "I have to be careful and wash my hands several times."

Major cancellations among North American pro sports leagues have yet to take place, but in Europe, some leagues have already postponed games, played in empty stadiums, or have had their seasons and postseasons wiped out completely.

Finnish winger Joel Armia felt for the players who saw their seasons vanish into thin air, but understood the necessity given the circumstances.

"I think they're just trying to prevent this thing from spreading, so whatever it takes. It obviously sucks, because the playoffs are starting there," outlined Armia. "But if it's spreading so fast, then I think it's a good thing."

Suzuki continues to shine

He may have just gone through an eight-game pointless streak, but that hasn't taken away from the fact that Nick Suzuki has been enjoying a solid and exciting rookie season in the NHL.

The 20-year-old snapped that skid on Tuesday when he assisted on Artturi Lehkonen's third-period goal, and surpassed Henri Richard for most points as a rookie in team history with his 41st point of the season.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Le 13e but de la saison de Lehky. Lehky's 13th of the season.#GoHabsGo

Danault has been impressed with his fellow pivot's work thus far, even if there's some fine-tuning left to be done.

"What's impressed me the most about him is his offense. He plays hard. You can see the skills he has, he has a really high skill set. I think he still has to work on his defensive game, which is the hardest part in the NHL, as a center. It's a tough job," shared Danault. "I think we all know as a team, too, that he's going to be a very valuable player for us."

Video: Danault, Ouellet, and Drouin's post-practice media op

Suzuki has suited up for all 71 Canadiens games this season, and Petry says he's been wowed by what the youngster brings to the table.

"If you look at this game from when he started out and where he is now, I think he's taken huge steps. There's still a lot to learn, but he's a guy who's listened, he's coachable, and has made those steps," praised Petry of Suzuki, who has 13 goals and 28 assists in 2019-20. "He's a smart player. He's not afraid to go to the areas where you're going to get hit. He's been a big part of this team."


Paul Byron, Christian Folin, and Shea Weber took a therapy day in lieu of practice, while Carey Price spent the session doing off-ice workouts. Head coach Claude Julien told reporters that Folin might be a question mark for Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, but there was no cause for concern with Byron, Weber, and Price.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Mercredi 11 mars - P. Byron, C. Folin et S. Weber (traitements), ainsi que C. Price (entra��nement hors glace) ne s'entra��nent pas aujourd'hui. / Wednesday, March 11 - P. Byron, C. Folin and S. Weber (therapy days), as well as C. Price (off ice workout) are not practicing today.

Jonathan Drouin is considered day-to-day, and Julien said there could be an update on his status on Thursday. Charlie Lindgren left practice after taking a shot to his upper-body and Julien said he was in the process of being evaluated by the team's medical staff.

The Canadiens face the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday at the Bell Centre. For tickets to the game, click here.

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