The Canadiens skated at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo on Thursday morning in preparation for their regular season-opening game against the Sabres. All players who made the trip to Buffalo were on the ice for the morning practice.
- Jeff Petry took part in his first practice with his teammates since injuring himself in the final game of the preseason on October 6 against Toronto. The veteran blue-liner won't be in the lineup against the Sabres, but could suit up on Saturday in Ottawa depending how he feels in his next few practices.
- Carey Price did not accompany the team to Buffalo (flu). Charlie Lindgren was recalled from St. John's on Wednesday and will back up Al Montoya, who will make his Canadiens debut against the Sabres.
- With five full NHL seasons and seven more in the AHL and ECHL under his belt, the 31-year-old may be getting his first taste of action as a Hab against the Sabres, but as Michel Therrien pointed out, this is far from Montoya's first rodeo.
"We'll have six guys who'll play their first game with the Montreal Canadiens tonight, but a guy like Montoya has experience; he's been in this situation before," mentioned the Habs bench boss of his opening-night starter, who landed in Montreal as a free agent on July 1 after spending the last two seasons with the Florida Panthers. "He had a really good season last year. We wanted to bring in a little bit more experience this summer to support Carey, and I think [that experience] will help him tonight."
Video: Al Montoya describes his mask design
- As Therrien pointed out, Montoya is not the only player poised to make his first official appearance in bleu-blanc-rouge in regular season action in Buffalo. In addition to veterans Andrew Shaw, Shea Weber, and Alexander Radulov, who will be sporting the CH for the first time since joining the team this summer, Artturi Lehkonen and Mikhail Sergachev will be making their Habs and NHL debuts on Thursday night, as well.
"This is going to be my first real NHL game and I'm just embracing the moment. I'm trying to live it as much as I can," stressed the 21-year-old rookie, who will play on a line with Radulov and Tomas Plekanec to kick off the campaign. "The guys said to try to go out there and do your thing. It's just another game of hockey pretty much. I've played a lot of games in my time - and a lot of important games - so it's not like it will be that different. I'll just go out there and enjoy it…and get the win."
- Opening night excitement isn't limited to just the half-dozen newcomers in the Habs dressing room. The last time Therrien was behind the bench for a game that counted in the standings was on April 7 against the Lightning, and he's champing at the bit to kick things off.
"I woke up at 5:15 a.m. this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. It's the first game of the season," he shared. "Opening night is always special. There's only one. You want to make sure everything is ready. I really liked our players' attitudes during training camp. Training camp helped us be in a position to start this first game with confidence. We've been really focused on the little details over these last few weeks."
Following a difficult campaign that saw the Canadiens finish 13th in the Eastern Conference, the Habs captain is also ready to turn the page and launch a brand new year as of 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night.
"It's going to be a lot of fun. Our summer was way too long," said Max Pacioretty."We're ready to put last year in the past and we can't really do that until the puck drops for the regular season. We're on to a new year and it's time to look forward."
- The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet 360, RDS, 98,5FM and TSN 690.
Projected lines and defense pairings for the season opener