BROSSARD - There's no denying it. The Canadiens have to pick up points every single night to secure a playoff berth.
Entering Saturday night's contest against the Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Julien's troops find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
Not by much, though, as they sit just two points back of both the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently occupy the first and second wild card spots, respectively.
After coming away empty-handed on Long Island in their most recent outing, earning a win on home turf over Chicago is of primordial importance.
"We've got to be ready to go. We're in a dog fight right now. It's playoffs for us," said defenseman Jordie Benn, following Saturday morning's optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex. "If you can't turn it on now, you're in the wrong sport. We'll have a good effort tonight and hopefully come out with two points."
Video: Jordie Benn on a big matchup with Chicago
That same approach to the remaining contests on the schedule was echoed by fellow blueliner Victor Mete.
"I think everyone knows what we need to do from now on. Every game counts, every game is important. We can't take any nights off," stressed Mete. "We have to come the next 11 games and play 60 minutes every single game. It's in our hands right now, so we have to do everything we can to make the playoffs."
For his part, Max Domi fully expects the group to deliver the goods against a Chicago squad riding a four-game winning streak.
There simply isn't any room for coming out with a less-than-stellar effort from start to finish.
"I think you can expect a team that's going to come out and play hard and do whatever it takes to win," said Domi. "We're going to leave it all out there. That's for sure… As far as we're concerned, we have to win every game. That's the mentality we have. We're going to stick to that."
The tight nature of the playoff race isn't causing any panic among Julien's players, though. They're embracing the test ahead of them and hope to succeed with dedicated efforts and points to show for it.
"It's going to make it even sweeter if we do make it in, so we've just got to have fun with it," said Benn. "It's fun to come to the rink and play hockey. It's a good challenge."
Mete is certainly enjoying the competition, too.
"I love it. It's good. It's a lot of fun. It's the best time of the year right now. Every game since pretty much February has counted and been a big game for us," mentioned Mete. "We're going to keep going here and hopefully pull it out."
Video: Victor Mete on playing a full 60 minutes
Jesperi talks postseason puck
Should the Canadiens clinch a playoff spot in the end, both Mete and Jesperi Kotkaniemi would experience the NHL postseason for the first time.
That's clearly been on Kotkaniemi's mind of late.
"I want to feel those playoffs here," said the 18-year-old Finn. "I've heard that it's a pretty nice feeling."
Being in a playoff race isn't anything new for the Pori native, who found himself in a similar situation last year in the Finnish Elite League with Ässät.
Video: Jesperi Kotkaniemi on being in the playoff hunt
Kotkaniemi's club ended up making the playoffs, so a repeat of that scenario would be extra nice.
"We're not where we should be now, but I think if we keep improving our game we will get there," said Kotkaniemi. "I would more like to be in the first spot, but we need to do what we need to do."