The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex on Thursday morning in preparation for their final outing of the preseason against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.
- Captain Max Pacioretty did not take part in the morning skate. He is sidelined with a flu virus and will not be in uniform on Thursday night. In his absence, Sven Andrighetto skated on the Canadiens' top line alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
- After being placed on waivers on Wednesday, the Canadiens assigned defenseman Mark Barberio to the AHL's St. John's IceCaps on Thursday afternoon.
- Carey Price will get the start in goal against Toronto. It will mark his first start in a Canadiens uniform since November 25th when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in a tilt at Madison Square Garden. Mike Condon will serve as Price's backup.
- While Thursday night's contest will be a special occasion for Price, it will also be significant for Shea Weber. After all, the Canadiens' No. 6 will be making his first appearance in front of the Bell Centre faithful since joining the club in late June.
Weber will be patrolling the blue line alongside Nathan Beaulieu, who clearly has a great deal of respect for his defense partner already. Beaulieu is eager to see the 31-year-old Sicamous, BC native in action.
"We know how devastating he can be with multiple parts of his game, whether it's his shot, how strong he is, and how physical and mean he is on the ice. It's a huge asset that we've got to take advantage of," shared Beaulieu, who believes the addition of the towering rearguard - along with Andrew Shaw - will go a long way towards making the Canadiens a tougher opponent to intimidate.
Video: Nathan Beaulieu on team toughness
"We didn't want to be pushed around at all, and sometimes we felt in situations that we were. Having those two guys, [with] energy and toughness, they're good hockey players as well," added Beaulieu. "It's going to be that everyone feels a little lighter on their shoulders, for sure. There are guys who'll take care of business if something goes down."
- Bringing character players like that on board has already helped to change the locker room dynamic somewhat, according to Brendan Gallagher.
"We've all enjoyed each other. Everyone's got an important role in the locker room and everyone's thriving in it. I think that goes a long way," said Gallagher, having noticed a shift in the group's mentality in comparison with last season. "I think [the change is] in our attitude. I think we're more mature for what we went through last year. I think as painful as it was, we all learned some very important lessons about what it's going to take to be successful. We're coming in here, everyone's got a good attitude and we're having fun at the rink."
- Gallagher also took some time on Thursday morning to share his thoughts on the need for the Canadiens to improve their standing with the man advantage in 2016-17. Michel Therrien's troops ranked 25th in the league in that department last year, clicking just 16.2 percent of the time while up a man. That simply isn't good enough, insisted Gallagher, who says every effort is being made to get the power play back on track with assistant coach Kirk Muller leading the charge.
Video: Brendan Gallagher on team chemistry
Through six preseason games, the Canadiens have converted on five of 27 power play chances, lighting the lamp 18.5 percent of the time. That has them ranked eighth in the NHL.
"It's no secret that if you want to be a good team in this league, specialty teams are a big part of that. For us, you've got to be better on the power play than we were last season. It starts now. What we've done in camp has been really good. I think we're moving in the right direction. It's been good in preseason so far," mentioned Gallagher. "Hopefully, one more game tonight and we'll carry that into the beginning of the year."
- Phillip Danault is eager to put all of the hard work he put in over the summer to the test once again on Thursday night. Hip surgery derailed his training efforts heading into last season, so being fully healthy entering a brand new year has the 23-year-old left-winger full of optimism and excitement.
"I had the chance to train hard for four months. I gained a lot in terms of strength and power. I got stronger physically and I have better explosion," said Danault, who put up three goals and five points in 21 games with the Canadiens last season after coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks in late February. "I worked a lot on my offensive skills. We can never have too much offense on one team. Even if I'm playing on the third and fourth lines, it's very important to bring offense."
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on TSN4 and RDS on TV, along with TSN 690 and 98.5 fm.
Projected lineup against Toronto:
Sven Andrighetto - Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen - Tomas Plekanec -Alexander Radulov
Daniel Carr - David Desharnais - Andrew Shaw
Phillip Danault - Torrey Mitchell - Michael McCarron
Nathan Beaulieu - Shea Weber
Andrei Markov - Jeff Petry
Alexei Emelin - Mikhail Sergachev