NEW YORK – The Montreal Canadiens are expected to insert rookie forward Michael Bournival and veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon into their lineup for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.
Nothing was confirmed, but neither Bournival nor Bouillon stayed on the ice late following the Canadiens morning skate with the rest of the scratches.
Bouillon is expected to take the place of rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who played one shift in the third period and overtime of Game 3, a 3-2 Canadiens win. Bournival replaces Brandon Prust, who is suspended for two games for his hit on Rangers center Derek Stepan.
Of course, the talk heading into Game 4 had little to do with actual hockey decisions and lineup news, instead being completely dominated by what the two coaches in the series are saying at the podium.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who has taken a starring role in the public verbal jabs between himself and his Rangers counterpart Alain Vigneault, admitted Sunday that it was a bit of showmanship.
"The important thing is that the two teams compete," Therrien said. "The important thing is the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens, and it's going to be an exciting game [Sunday]. On their side, they're going to do everything they can not to lose twice at home, and for us we want to turn this series around the way we did the last game.
"That's the most important thing. The rest is a smokescreen."
If that is Therrien's intent, it is working wonderfully.
The Canadiens players claim they have no idea what's been going on in the media and what their coach has been saying about the Rangers coach and vice versa.
"I don't really know what's being said, I've heard maybe one or two things," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said. "But at the end of the day, if you don't play the right way you're going to lose the game. Games are too valuable right now to get caught up in something off the ice."
Pacioretty was then asked another question about the coaches, and again had to reiterate he didn't know what was going on.
"Once again, I don't really know what was said," he repeated. "I haven't really heard anyone talk about it, so I don't think it's on anyone's mind, really."
Maybe that's Therrien point, his "smokescreen" turning the spotlight away from his players and turning it onto him.
"He's a passionate coach, he's passionate about what he does and how he prepares this team and gets us ready to play," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We feed off of his passion."
Here are the projected lineups:
Rick Nash - Dominic Moore - Chris Kreider
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
John Moore - Kevin Klein
Injured: Derek Stepan (jaw)
Scratched: Daniel Carcillo (suspended), Justin Falk, Raphael Diaz, Jesper Fast
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Rene Bourque – Lars Eller – Thomas Vanek
Michael Bournival – Daniel Briere – Dale Weise
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon – Mike Weaver
Injured: Carey Price (knee)
Scratched: Brandon Prust (suspended), George Parros, Travis Moen, Ryan White, Jarred Tinordi, Douglas Murray, Nathan Beaulieu