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SJS@MTL: Tatar, Armia expected to face the Sharks

Head coach Claude Julien believes the pair will be in uniform for Thursday night's contest at the Bell Centre

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - On Thursday morning, head coach Claude Julien confirmed that forwards Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia were game-time decisions against the Sharks.

While Tatar left practice early on Wednesday after taking a shot off his foot, Armia has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.

"Tatar should play. He skated this morning a little bit, and he feels good. I don't see a problem there, but we'll make a decision later to make sure everything is good. It's the same with Armia. He feels good," said Julien, following the optional skate at the Bell Sports Complex. "The chances are really good that both guys are in the lineup tonight."

Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference vs. SJS

If Armia is good to go, he should find himself on the right side of a line that also features Jonathan Drouin on left wing and Max Domi at center.

Julien is eager to see the trio at work versus San Jose.

"We want to give that line a try. It gives us another line of veterans that can go up against the other teams' big lines," explained Julien. "We know that Armia has had a good start to the season. He's strong and good along the walls. It should give the line another dimension since the two other guys are good playmakers and excel on the offensive side of the game."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Entra��nement optionnel ce matin. Voici la liste des joueurs sur la glace �� Brossard.Optional skate this morning in Brossard. Here's a list of players on the ice:WealKotkaniemiArmiaCousinsThompsonSuzukiReillyFolinKulakFleuryMeteKinkaid#GoHabsGo

'They've been elite for a long time'

The Canadiens have certainly struggled against the Sharks in recent years.

San Jose has won the last eight meetings between the two teams, with the Habs' last victory coming back on March 21, 2015 at the Bell Centre.

While Peter DeBoer's troops are off to a rather sluggish start this season (3-5-1, 7 points) - and are winless in their last two games - Julien's players certainly aren't taking anything for granted versus their Western Conference opponents.

"They're still a good hockey team. They've been elite for a long time, and they have a really good lineup there. We have to be ready," insisted veteran Nate Thompson, who will be playing his 19th career game versus San Jose. "I think they have a combination of size and skill, and they have some guys that can really put the puck in the net. They have some guys that can wear you down. They've got a little bit of everything, so we have to make sure that we're playing our game tonight."

Video: Nate Thompson on the challenge the Sharks present

There's no denying the fact that the Sharks boast a slew of offensive weapons in their arsenal.

The list is rather impressive, ranging from Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane up front, to Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson on the back end.

"Everyone over there is a good player," said 20-year-old youngster Nick Suzuki. "They've been a great team for I don't even know how many years. They've always been great. It's going to be a good challenge for all of us here."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Cette passe de Suzuki. 👀That pass. #GoHabsGo

And Julien is hoping his group will rise to the occasion.

"We're coming off a spirited loss, too, and that's the way we're looking at it. We felt we should have won in Minnesota [on Sunday], and we let that game slip away," mentioned Julien. "If they're hungry, we should be as well."

Genuine admiration

Going up against the likes of Thornton and Marleau is always a thrill for Thompson.

"I won't be the oldest guy on the ice. That's for sure," joked the 35-year-old Anchorage, AK native, referencing his 40-year-old counterparts with San Jose. "Those two guys are future Hall-of-Famers, and maybe I can try and get a couple of signed sticks from them tonight."

For his part, Suzuki is looking forward to his first-ever meeting with Thornton, who hails from his hometown.

But he isn't going to let the matchup distract him from the task at hand.

"He's from around where I kind of grew up, so I was always watching him," said Suzuki, a London, ON native. "My dad was a fan of his. I'm not going to worry too much about that, though."

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