BROSSARD - There might not be anything at stake for the Canadiens playoffs-wise on Saturday night, but don't expect Claude Julien's contingent to be lacking in the energy department.
This group wants to close out the 2018-19 season with a win for the Bell Centre faithful who've stuck by them all season long.
Tough as it may be to set their collective disappointment aside, Julien's players are eager to deliver the goods against a Maple Leafs squad bound for the postseason.
"You want to win whenever you're playing. We're all competitive guys. Obviously, we would've liked this game to mean a little bit more than it is. It doesn't, which is tough. Our mindset was to make the playoffs since we showed up in September. That's what our goal was and now it's been taken away. You only have one game left," said assistant captain Brendan Gallagher, following Saturday's morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex. "You basically have to be pros and show up to the rink and do your job. It's a game for pride, one last game that we get to enjoy being around each other."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on missing the playoffs
Like Gallagher, Max Domi is entering the final game of the year with exactly the same mindset.
"We've got one more game here and we've got to leave it all out there and play for our fans tonight. That's all we're concerned about right now," said Domi, ahead of the regular-season finale. "Tonight's no different than any other night. You want to get the two points and continue to build confidence in our group and go into the offseason with a big win against a good hockey team."
During his post-practice press conference, Julien confirmed that Charlie Lindgren will get the start in goal for the Canadiens versus Toronto. Up front, Ryan Poehling will play his first NHL game, while Paul Byron is sidelined with a wrist injury.
With respect to Poehling, Julien indicated that the 20-year-old centerman has enjoyed a smooth transition since making the jump from the NCAA ranks earlier in the week.
"He's probably more of a rounded centerman than just a one-dimensional player. He plays well both ways. There's a chance you might see him on the penalty kill tonight. We'll see how his game goes and how comfortable he is," explained Julien, who will feature the former St. Cloud State University standout in between Nicolas Deslauriers and Jordan Weal. "To be able to evaluate him, you'll see a little bit of that. In practice with us, he fit seemed to fit right in. I didn't see him looking out of place or slower than anyone else or faster than anyone else. He's been fine."
Poehling talks NHL debut
It was just last Sunday that Poehling inked a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canadiens that kicked in immediately.
He's been chomping at the bit to suit up for the club that drafted him 25th overall in 2017, and his first taste of NHL action is only a few more hours away.
"I feel good. I'm excited. It's the last game of the season and I know it's not the scenario we wanted to be in, but I'm looking forward to it," said Poehling, who elected to forego his senior season with the Huskies to turn pro. "My dream has always been to play in the NHL and it's becoming a reality tonight, so I'm excited to see how it goes."
Video: Ryan Poehling on making his NHL debut
He isn't placing any additional pressure on himself, though, when it comes to the way he'd like to go about his business on Saturday night.
"I think I've just got to play my game. I'm here for a reason, that's how I play, so I don't have to do anything special," mentioned Poehling. "I think if I just go out there and do what I do most nights, I think I'll be fine."
Julien on failing to advance
Despite the fact that the Julien guided the Canadiens to a remarkable turnaround this season, the veteran bench boss certainly wasn't pleased with the end result.
"It's extremely disappointing for us because I felt that our team was probably playing its best hockey of the year in the last few weeks and we were looking like a team revved up to get into the playoffs," said Julien. "You look around, you look at teams that don't have as good a season as you, but unfortunately they're in the other conference. You look at all kinds of things, and it's disappointing."
Video: Claude Julien's pre-game press conference vs. TOR
Nevertheless, he hopes his players will offer up a stellar effort before heading their separate ways.
"The bottom line is right now I'd like the guys to show some character like they did all year and finish strong tonight against Toronto," said Julien.