Big contributor

Posted on 29 March 2015 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – With a penchant for physical play and sound decision-making, Greg Pateryn is steadily solidifying his role on the Canadiens’ back end. Now in his second stint with the big club during the 2014-15 campaign, the 24-year-old has offered up one standout performance after another since returning to the Canadiens lineup on March 14, chipping in with 21 hits and nine blocked shots in his last eight games alone. “I’m just going out there and feeling more and more comfortable every game and every shift. I’m trying to take the next step because when playoffs do come around the corner, everyone picks it up a level and you’ve got to be there or else you’re going to be behind,” offered Pateryn, who is averaging 12:42 of ice time per game and boasts 39 hits through 14 outings with the Canadiens this season. “Even this last stretch of [regular season] games, you can definitely tell that teams are really turning it on, especially ones that are in a playoff race. As the season goes on, the pace is completely different.” Fortunately, Pateryn has done nothing but thrive under these conditions. The Sterling Heights, MI native feels right at home playing in games that mandate players take their intensity and grit factor to a whole new level. “When teams are coming like that, it kind of puts you on your toes a little more. Knowing that they are coming hard, you wake up a little bit,” mentioned Pateryn, who has registered a plus-2 differential in 17 career NHL games over the last three seasons combined. “With guys coming, especially with my style of game, it creates opportunities for hits, whether they’re coming to hit me or they’re in a position to get hit. It’s something that helps me get involved in the game. If a hit presents itself and I have a chance to finish a guy, by all means I’m going to take that opportunity.” Pateryn has certainly been effective at doing just that while keeping his cool and staying disciplined along the way. He’s spent just six minutes in the penalty box this year with the Canadiens, which is a good indicator the former University of Michigan standout understands just how to use his size and stature effectively at the NHL level. “I think it’s something that doesn’t just come right away. There’s a fine line between playing with an edge and playing hard versus playing reckless, taking stupid penalties and running around out there,” stressed Pateryn, who registered 15 goals and 34 points in 68 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15. “As long as you’re always in position and finishing your checks when you have a chance, that’s the biggest thing.” Staying true to that formula has earned the American rearguard high praise from head coach Michel Therrien, who admits Pateryn’s transition to the Canadiens’ blue line has been nothing short of seamless this time around. “This is what we like about him. He’s a demanding guy to play against. He’ll make you pay at the right time. He’s disciplined and he’s getting more and more confident game after game,” explained Therrien, who was particularly impressed by Pateryn’s play alongside fellow young gun Nathan Beaulieu in the Canadiens’ playoff-clinching win on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers. “We like the way Greg’s been playing. We like the way he’s been competing. The fact that we have another physical presence amongst our defensemen is a bonus.” That’s for sure, especially when the Canadiens’ playoff opponents will undoubtedly try to push them around at every opportunity. It’s safe to say that if Pateryn gets the call, though, come mid-April, he fully intends to push right back. “Getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs would be really exciting. I played in the NCAA playoffs before, but that’s probably nowhere near comparison to this. I think just the excitement and the emotion would pick everyone’s level up to another notch and I’d be happy to be there with them,” mentioned Pateryn, who was one of Therrien’s “Black Aces” during last season’s lengthy playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. “Feeling the emotion and adrenaline going every game during the Stanley Cup playoffs. You can’t really ask for much more than that.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

It’s a date

Posted on 29 March 2015 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – It was only a matter of time, but on Saturday night Max Pacioretty made it official. The Canadiens are playoff-bound in 2015. Knotted 2-2 with just over two minutes left in overtime, Pacioretty took advantage of a high-sticking penalty to Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck to net his 10th game-winning goal of the season and punch the Habs’ 82nd postseason ticket in franchise history. “Before tonight’s game the coaches told us there were only seven left, so let’s treat them like our own first round of the playoffs. I really like that mentality. We go into every series thinking we’re going to play seven games – now we’ve got six left,” explained Pacioretty, who leads the NHL with an incredible plus-40 differential. “We did the job tonight but at the end of the day we’ve got to get some momentum heading into the playoffs. That’s our goal right now and we’ve got to get everybody on board. Tonight was a good step, but we’ve still got work to do.” Indeed, despite clinching one game sooner this year and with nine more points than in 2014 in an ultra-competitive Eastern Conference, it will be business as usual in the Canadiens dressing room on Sunday when the team begins preparing for the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. “We haven’t shown our best yet. Tonight we didn’t show our best but we played a really strong game. You’ve got to be happy with the fact that guys might be a little worn down from playing a lot of games in a row right now, but we still found a way to battle and to win,” continued the night’s first star, who also registered three hits over 19:29 of ice time. “That’s the difference in the playoffs – having a mentality of never giving up. It’s only going to get harder from now on. We’ve got another game on Monday and the same mentality applies there.” With a pair of power play goals in a playoff-type outing against Florida, head coach Michel Therrien already has a good idea of what his troops will be working on in Brossard, hoping to capitalize on the team’s most recent momentum with the man advantage. “I liked our composure. The Panthers aren’t an easy team to beat,” underlined the Habs’ bench boss, who also took sole possession of the 43rd spot among the NHL’s winningest coaches on Saturday. “Our power play was one of the highlights tonight, and that’s something we need to build off of now that we’re officially in the playoffs. We want to position ourselves as strongly as possible to make sure we’re ready.” Fans checking the NHL standings on Sunday morning will find more than just a familiar ‘X’ next to the Canadiens logo, as Montreal now sits back atop the Eastern Conference following the Rangers’ afternoon loss to the Bruins. That's a positive sign for a Habs team with great expectations for this spring following last year’s Eastern Conference Final run. “It’s encouraging for us. We’ll recognize that we’ve accomplished something tonight, but it’s just the first step of many that we have yet to take. It shows that we’ve done something well,” acknowledged Lars Eller, who had 13 points in 17 games during last season’s playoffs, including five goals. “Every game from tonight on is very important. I can’t stress that enough. We don’t just turn it off now and turn it back on on April 15. We’ve all got something to play for. We want to finish first in our division, we want home ice advantage… all those things. That’s what we’re going to play for now.” Steven Nechay is a writer for

The Numbers Game: March 28, 2015

Posted on 29 March 2015 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Here's a numerical look at Saturday's game between the Habs and the Panthers. 784 – Number of days which have elapsed since P.K. Subban last missed a game with the Canadiens, making his 200th consecutive start with the Habs on Saturday at the Bell Centre. The last time the star defenseman was missing in action dates back to January 30, 2013. 18 – Number of career goals Lars Eller has scored on Saturday nights, making it his most productive day of the week by far, followed by Tuesday (12). Saturday night was alright for scoring once again against the Panthers, as Eller lit the lamp to get the Habs on the board late in the first. 75 – Number of career NHL points for Jeff Petry after the 27-year-old defenseman hit the three-quarter century mark on Saturday night with an assist on Eller’s opening goal – his first point as a Hab since being acquired by Montreal at the NHL trade deadline. 22 – Number of Canadiens players who have registered at least one point this season after Petry became the latest Hab to join that list. 66 – Percentage of the NHL’s “Mitchells” who were on the Bell Centre ice on Saturday. Canadiens forward Torrey Mitchell shared the ice opposite Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell, while the league’s third Mitchell, John, plays for Colorado. 4 – Number of Habs players who have now scored at least 20 goals this season. Alex Galchenyuk became just the latest to join the select group on Saturday night after beating Roberto Luongo with a precise shot from up close late in the second. 54 – Percentage of career points Andrei Markov has registered on the power play, picking up a 262nd point with the man advantage after assisting on Galchenyuk’s second period equalizer. 5 – Number of hits dished out by Greg Pateryn on Saturday night – the most among his teammates – including a bone-crushing check on Jimmy Hayes early in the first. 75 – Percentage of the Canadiens' four games against the Panthers so far this season which have required extra time to be solved, after the two teams were tied at two goals apiece through 60 minutes on Saturday. -

Game Preview: Panthers @ Canadiens

Posted on 28 March 2015 | Comments Off

PANTHERS (34-26-14) @ CANADIENS (46-21-8) The Canadiens will try to lock up a playoff spot when the Florida Panthers visit the Bell Centre on Saturday. The Habs could have potentially punched their postseason tickets before even hitting the ice on Saturday, but following Boston's 4-2 matinee decision over the Rangers at TD Garden, Montreal now must win against Florida to clinch. The Panthers meanwhile, are still in the hunt for a wild card spot, sitting just three points back of the Bruins and the Ottawa Senators. The Habs will be looking to make the most of home ice advantage on Saturday after returning home from a brief two-game road trip with just one point in the bank. On Thursday, the team fell 5-2 in Winnipeg despite firing 41 shots at Ondrej Pavelec. Brendan Gallagher also scored his 23rd goal of the season – and 45th point of the campaign – in the losing effort. The Panthers on the other hand, are coming off a 4-1 win in Toronto and have now won three of their last four outings. Roberto Luongo, who has started the last four games for the Panthers, should be back in goal again on Saturday. He’ll face Carey Price, who gets another chance to zero in on the team’s all-time single season wins record (43). Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed following practice on Saturday that Brian Flynn will be back in the lineup against the Panthers. Flynn skated alongside Lars Eller and Jacob De La Rose in place of Devante Smith-Pelly during the team's morning skate. The Canadiens and Panthers last met just under two weeks ago, on March 17 in Sunrise. Dustin Tokarski notably made 41 saves to secure the 3-2 win on the road.

The road to the Memorial Cup

Posted on 27 March 2015 | Comments Off

The road to the Memorial Cup Here’s a Canadiens prospects focused preview of this year’s CHL playoffs. Nikita Scherbak (1st round, 26th overall in 2014) Team: Everett Silvertips (43-20-9) – 95 points – 1st place in the U.S. Division Opponent: Spokane Chiefs (34-34-4) – 72 points – 1st Wild Card in the Western Conference The Everett Silvertips acquired Nikita Scherbak from the Saskatoon Blades at the start of the 2014-15 season with the intention of making a deep playoff push this spring. That scenario could very well play out if the Canadiens’ first-round pick continues producing at the same pace he has been thus far, and the goaltending tandem between the pipes continues its strong play. Everett has allowed just 199 goals this season, good for second-best in the league. Up front, Scherbak has racked up 82 points in just 65 games to finish first among his teammates and 16th league-wide. Ranked ninth in the CHL’s Power Rankings, the Silvertips should be the favorites in their first-round series. Michael McCarron (1st round, 25th overall in 2013) Team: Oshawa Generals (51-11-6) – 108 points – 1st place in the East Conference Opponent : Peterborough Petes (26-36-6) – 58 points – 8th place in the East Conference Michael McCarron improved his chances of participating in this spring’s Memorial Cup tournament in Quebec when he was traded from London Knights to the Oshawa Generals. The Generals finished second-overall in the OHL, just two points behind the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who they could very well meet in this year’s final. McCarron registered 27 points (6G-21A) in 31 games with the Generals, bringing his season total to 68 points in 60 games. Ranked third in the CHL’s Power Rankings, the Silvertips should be the favorites in their first-round series. Zachary Fucale (2nd round, 36th overall in 2013) Team: Québec Remparts (40-25-3) – 83 points – 2nd place in the East Division Opponent : Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (31-31-6) – 68 points – 5th place in the Maritimes Division As tournament hosts, the Quebec Remparts are guaranteed a spot in this spring’s Memorial Cup, although whether goaltender Zachary Fucale gets ice time isn’t. Remparts netminder Callum Booth will start the first-round series opposite the Screaming Eagles in goal. Acquired from the Halifax Mooseheads mid-season, Fucale played 17 games with Remparts in 2014-15, registering eight wins and eight losses with a 3.22 goals against average and 0.877 save percentage. Building towards the Memorial Cup for two seasons now, Quebec should be the favorites in their first-round series. Daniel Audette (5th round, 147th overall in 2014) Team: Sherbrooke Phoenix (36-26-6) – 78 points – 3rd place in the Western Division Opponent : Charlottetown Islanders (35-28-5) – 2nd place in the Maritimes Division Daniel Audette enjoyed an impressive 2014-15 campaign, racking up 73 points (29G-44A) in 60 games with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, who are back in the playoff picture following a forgettable 2013-14 season. With nearly identical records in the standings, the Phoenix-Islanders series could very well be the tightest in the first round – the difference-maker potentially coming down to travel time. Separated by close to 1,000 kilometers, the series’ fifth game, if necessary, would be hosted in Charlottetown before moving to Sherbrooke for potential games six and seven. Jérémy Grégoire (6th round, 176th overall in 2012) Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (35-35-8) – 78 points – 4th place in the East Division Opponent : Saint John Sea Dogs (32-26-10) – 74 points – 3rd place in the Maritimes Division Jeremy Gregoire missed the first half of the season, but made an immediate impact in Baie Comeau upon his return. In his first 16 games back, the Drakkar captain scored 10 goals and registered another 14 assists to lead his team to 11 wins over that span. Averaging at least one point per game over the two final months of the regular season, Gregoire finished the campaign with 41 points in just 32 games. The Drakkar are first-round favorites in 2014-15 notably because of their playoff experience. Eric Veilleux’s squad has participated in each of the previous two President’s Cup finals, falling to the Mooseheads in 2013 and the Val d’Or Foreurs in 2014. Brett Lernout (3rd round, 73th overall in 2014) Team: Swift Current Broncos (34-33-5) – 73 points – 3rd place in the East Division Opponent : Regina Pats (37-24-11) – 85 points – 2nd place in the East Division Defenseman Brett Lernout and the Swift Current Broncos will take on the Regina Pats in an all-Saskatchewan first round series. Lernout, who is in his fourth WHL season, registered a career-high 42 points in 2014-15, racking up 14 goals and 28 assists with the Broncos, although the Pats are nevertheless first-round favorites to move on. Tim Bozon (3rd round, 74th overall in 2012) Team: Kootenay Ice (37-31-4) – 78 points – 1st Wild Card in the Eastern Conference Opponent : Calgary Hitmen (45-22-5) – 95 points – 1st place in the Central Division The Kootenay Ice will have their hands full in taking on the Calgary Hitmen, despite owning the seventh-best offense in the league. Tim Bozon, one of three Kootenay 30-plus goalscorers, found the back of the net 35 times this season – one shy of his personal best – to finish the year ranked fourth among his teammates with 63 points (35G-28A). The Hitmen meanwhile, can count on the league’s fourth-ranked defense heading into the playoffs, which allowed just 203 goals this season, as well a third-ranked offense which lit the lamp 289 times in 2014-15.

Forever connected

Posted on 27 March 2015 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Max Pacioretty has come a long way since his playing days at the University of Michigan, and his former linemates couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments. Back in 2007-08, the Canadiens’ No. 67 played his one and only season with college hockey’s winningest program, sporting the maize and blue as a freshman on a line with captain Kevin Porter and alternate captain Chad Kolarik, both of whom were seniors at the time. The trio was widely considered the best in the country, combining for 78 goals and 158 points in 33 games, and pacing the Wolverines to a 33-6-4 overall record, a Central Collegiate Hockey Association title, and the 23rd NCAA Frozen Four appearance in school history. While Porter and Kolarik torched opposing netminders with 30-plus goals each en route to finishing the season among the nation’s top point producers, Pacioretty willingly assumed a far different role than the upper-classmen alongside him. Needless to say, lighting the lamp on a regular basis wasn’t necessarily atop the priority list. “I wasn’t as offensive-minded in juniors and in college as I am right now. I was playing a similar role a lot like Gally does, where I was trying to muck it up and create some time and space for my linemates, take away the goalie’s eyes, play physical, get pucks deep and get in on the forecheck. The fact that I was able to keep my game so simple allowed Kevin and Chad to be a little bit more creative,” offered Pacioretty, who was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team (along with defenseman Jeff Petry, who was attending Michigan State University) and claimed CCHA Rookie of the Year honors after leading the league’s freshman class with 12 goals and 28 points in 25 league games. “It’s hard to have a line with three players playing the same way. It becomes predictable, and sometimes it becomes easy to play against. I knew my job in that role. It wasn’t tough to play it. The coaching staff relayed that to me very often that I would have to be physical and create space to allow those guys to make plays. It worked out perfectly.” It certainly did, earning Pacioretty the overwhelming respect of his peers, who couldn’t help but admire the way the New Canaan, CT native went about his business upon his arrival in Ann Arbor. “For a star player who’d just gone in the first round of the NHL Draft to the Canadiens, he was very willing to step back. He never had an ego. That was huge for our line. When you have two seniors trying to make a name for themselves, it couldn’t have been easy. Kevin and I were trying to do the best we could to get that NHL contract and secure jobs. Ports and I had our thing going. I think for Max to take a back seat on that was pretty special of him,” confided Kolarik, who was selected 199th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2004, and is currently plying his trade overseas with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. “I also think he didn’t get enough credit while we were there. I guess the seniors got the most attention at the time. He might’ve been the most important player, though. I just think physically he was ahead of the curve at that age. He was the guy that would go in the corners for us and go in front of the net on the power play. He only had 15 total goals and 39 points in his freshman year, but I say only 15 goals because he probably should’ve had more,” added Kolarik, who also spent time in the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins organizations over the years. “If he wasn’t playing with us, he might’ve had a lot more with that shot of his. He always had that quick release and that one-timer ability. It was there even back then. He would’ve been the star on the line. He was a special kid, for sure. He still is.” That characterization applied not only to Pacioretty’s work on the ice, but off the ice, too. It didn’t take the Canadiens’ top point-getter the last three years running long to assert himself as someone fellow Wolverines could look up to, even at a relatively young age. “For the 12 freshmen we had that year, he was definitely the leader of that group. He brought those guys under his wing. I know he brought Aaron Palushaj under his wing. They would be in the gym every single day, whether it would be working on abs or forearms to up their shot or just training. He worked out probably harder than any of our guys. His work ethic off the ice was second to none. He was impressive in that sense also,” praised Kolarik, whose freshmen teammates in 2007-08 also included NHL picks Carl Hagelin, Louie Caporusso, Matt Rust and Benn Winnett, among others. “It shows the type of character he has, and I think it’s one of many reasons why he’s an assistant captain in Montreal. Those qualities showed back then.” Now a member of the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, Porter is definitely in agreement there, acknowledging that Pacioretty’s skill set in his late teens was reminiscent of someone far older and far more experienced at that level than he was. “I’d say he was dominant his freshman year. He was far and above all the other players, even some of the juniors and seniors back then. Everyone could tell that he was going to be a great player, especially after he matured even more and got a couple of years of pro under his belt. I don’t think anyone is really surprised with how well he’s doing in Montreal. It’s great to see,” mentioned Porter, who captured the Hobey Baker Award back in 2007-08 as the top collegiate player in the country. “He just played a complete game. That’s what it really was. He played well offensively. He played well defensively. He was running guys through the glass with hits. He blocked shots. He did all the little things. You don’t really see that from kids coming into college. It’s something you learn throughout your four years. He came in already possessing those tools, though, and that’s why he developed so quickly. That’s why he’s an elite player in the NHL.” For his part, Pacioretty insists that while the fundamentals of his game might have already been firmly in place prior to entering the collegiate hockey ranks, joining forces with Porter and Kolarik ultimately took him to new heights. “Kevin was definitely the best player in college, and at the same time Chad wasn’t too far behind. Coming in as a freshman and being able to play with two of the top players in the country, I learned and benefitted a lot. My experience at Michigan wouldn’t have been so positive if I didn’t have those two guys alongside me. I credit a lot of my success now to that experience,” admitted Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 35 goals, 64 points and a plus-40 differential in 75 games during the 2014-15 campaign. “Even today, I consider Kevin to be one of the most influential teammates I’ve ever had. He was one of the best captains I ever played for. When I got to Michigan, I felt like I was a part of the team. Kevin and Chad did a great job of making us feel like we were important to our success. That’s a leadership quality that goes a long way. I think Saku had that. Brian had that, too. It’s something I’m hoping down the road I can remember what those guys did for me, and hopefully do it for a player who was in my position back then,” added the seven-year NHL veteran, who still has plenty of fond memories from his time in the Great Lakes State. “Looking back, it was by far the most important year of my career. I owe all of the success and all of the positive feedback to my coaches and my teammates there. That goes for Chad and Kevin, especially.” And, all these years later, Pacioretty is still drawing on those unique experiences at Michigan to further cement his place among the NHL’s best and brightest. “I think I played much more rugged in college than I do at times now. That’s the way you have to play in the playoffs to have success in the NHL, so having that experience of playing in college and playing that type of role, playing that type of system, I think it goes a long way. Obviously, it hasn’t translated completely yet in the postseason. Hopefully, once the playoffs roll around this year, I can incorporate some of those skills to have success,” concluded Pacioretty, who boasts five goals and 11 points in 21 career NHL playoff contests. “Being able to incorporate some of my old habits at Michigan with some of my new habits can help me be more of a dual-threat player and help me have a lot more success in this league. It’s crazy how I’ve changed. I used to only dish. It seems like my game is completely different and I’ve got that shot-first mentality now and I’ve found success in doing that. I’m looking to keep getting better at that. It’s a work in progress.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Post-game notebook – Winnipeg

Posted on 27 March 2015 | Comments Off

WINNIPEG – In Thursday’s post-game notebook; no shortage in the shot department, the Jets’ effort comes as no surprise, and Dustin Tokarski praises his opponent. Shots, shots and more shots: You have to give credit to Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec. He played one outstanding game on Thursday night, turning aside 39 shots to pick up his sixth straight victory between the pipes. Pavelec was particularly good during the first period when Michel Therrien’s troops racked up 20 shots on goal trying to break the game wide open. It was the second time this season that the Canadiens managed to register at least 20 shots in a single frame during the 2014-15 campaign. They’d previously accomplished the feat back on December 30 in the second period against Florida. Unfortunately, the effort that night produced a far different result, as the CH went on to secure a 2-1 shootout victory in South Florida. “It wasn’t like we were discouraged or anything. We knew that we were playing a team that was going to work hard and make it tough in front. We were able to create some scoring chances, but there’s a difference between creating them and putting them in,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who along with Andrei Markov managed to light the lamp behind the Czech netminder on Thursday night at MTS Centre in a 5-2 defeat. “We’ve got to bear down, myself included, and make sure that we put those scoring chances in early on. It changes the course of the game. We liked the effort. We liked everything that led to it, but we’ve just got to do a better job bearing down.” Pavelec, however, wasn’t about to let that happen, and head coach Michel Therrien didn’t shy away from giving the 27-year-old praise in the aftermath of the Canadiens’ 21st regulation time loss of the year. “Pavelec was incredible. I think he made the difference in this game,” offered Therrien, whose squad remains atop the Atlantic Division standings with 100 points through 75 games, one point clear of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We played a solid game. We were ready. We dictated the pace of the game with our speed. Pavelec played outstanding hockey for them. They definitely capitalized on their chances.” No surprise: The Canadiens knew full well that the Jets were coming to play on Thursday night. That didn’t come as much of a shock. After all, Paul Maurice’s contingent is fighting to secure the franchise’s first postseason berth since Winnipeg returned to the NHL ranks for the 2011-12 campaign. “You can tell that their mindset every night is that they just want to use their speed, forecheck and play physical hockey. They did that against us. We expected that,” offered Gallagher, referencing the Jets’ high-octane effort on Thursday night, one that included Winnipeg outhitting the Canadiens by a 28-19 margin when all was said and done. “It wasn’t anything that caught us off guard. It’s the strength of their team. They were able to create some chances off of it.” And, they ultimately capitalized on their opportunities, scoring three goals in the second period alone to head to the locker room with a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes of play. “We played two solid periods where we dominated in the shot department and in the total number of scoring chances. We were losing 4-1. Games like this happen over the course of the season, but the effort was definitely there,” mentioned Therrien. “You can’t just look at the final score, though. That’s a mistake. The guys competed and that’s what I think is important. We showed a lot of character. We were ready. We knew we had a big challenge ahead of us, and I think the guys worked really hard.” Forget it and move on: Like his teammates, Dustin Tokarski wasn’t pleased with the outcome of Thursday night’s contest in Manitoba. Playing in front of family and friends, the 25-year-old was looking to make the most of his 15th start of the year and keep on rolling after a brilliant performance in his previous start in mid-March against Florida. While his seventh win of the season didn’t ultimately materialize, the Watson, SK native left Winnipeg with his head held high. “You guys saw it. [Pavelec] stood on his head. That’s a pretty epic performance by him,” offered Tokarski. “We played a good game. I would like to have made a few more saves out there, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. We’ve got to bounce back and pick up a couple at home.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

The Numbers Game: March 26, 2015

Posted on 27 March 2015 | Comments Off

WINNIPEG – Here's a numerical look at Thursday's game between the Habs and the Jets in Winnipeg. 38 – Difference, in pounds, between the heaviest player on the Winnipeg Jets’ roster, Dustin Byfuglien, who weighs in at a league-leading 260 lbs., and Greg Pateryn, who leads the Canadiens at 222 lbs. 199 – Number of consecutive games in which the Canadiens’ resident iron man P.K. Subban has laced up his skates. Subban hasn’t missed a single game since January 30, 2013. 200 – Number of career games Brendan Gallagher has played in the NHL, including Thursday night’s contest in Winnipeg. Gallagher reached the milestone in his third full season in the League. 5,635 – Number of days that have elapsed since referee Tim Peel officiated his first career NHL game back on October 21, 1999 in a tilt featuring the Avalanche and the Senators. Peel officiated his 1,000th NHL game on Thursday night. 12 – Number of times this season in which the Canadiens have fired 20 shots on goal or less for an entire game. Michel Therrien's troops hit that mark through 20 minutes of play on Thursday night, directing 20 shots in Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec's direction in the first period alone. 2 – Number of times during the 2014-15 campaign that the Canadiens have registered at least 20 shots on goal in a single period, including December 30 in the second period against the Florida Panthers and March 26 against the Winnipeg Jets in the opening frame. 43 – Number of points that Andrei Markov has racked up this season, matching his point haul from last year in six less games. The Russian rearguard scored his ninth goal of the season in the second period on Thursday night in Winnipeg. 16 – Number of Canadiens players who registered at least one shot on goal over the course of Thursday night's game in Winnipeg. Only Brandon Prust and Torrey Mitchell didn't amass a shot on Ondrej Pavelec. -

Game Preview: Canadiens @ Jets

Posted on 26 March 2015 | Comments Off

CANADIENS (46-20-8) @ JETS (38-24-12) The Canadiens pay the Winnipeg Jets a rare visit on Thursday in Manitoba. The Habs haven’t visited the MTS Centre since blanking the Jets 3-0 on October 15, 2013. The teams have split a pair of games in Montreal since then, with Winnipeg winning 2-1 in February 2014 and the Habs responding with a 3-0 decision last November. On Tuesday, Michel Therrien’s squad became the first to reach 100 points this season following a 3-2 overtime loss in Nashville, also moving into first place overall in the NHL. The Jets meanwhile suffered a first loss in their last six games, falling 5-2 in Vancouver. The Jets currently hold the West’s second wild card spot, two points ahead of the L.A. Kings with one less game to play. Dustin Tokarski, who made 42 saves in Florida just over a week ago, will get the start in Winnipeg. On the other end of the ice, Ondrej Pavelec will be between the pipes for the Jets. In 43 starts this season, the Czech netminder has registered 18 wins and 23 losses, nine of which have come in overtime. Up front, Drew Stafford has impressed since his arrival in the Prairies. Acquired from Buffalo in exchange for Evander Kane, Stafford has racked up 15 points (7G-8A-15PTS) in the 18 games since the trade. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, sidelined since March 5, will return to the lineup Thursday night after missing the Jets' last nine games. Aside from the change in goal, the rest of Therrien’s lineup should remain intact from Tuesday, with Sergei Gonchar sitting out a seventh game as a healthy scratch.

This is the one

Posted on 25 March 2015 | Comments Off

WINNIPEG – If Dale Weise has some extra jump in his game on Thursday night at the MTS Centre, there’s a good reason why. For the first time since joining the Canadiens last February, Weise will don the colors of the CH in front of family and friends in his hometown. It’s a game the 26-year-old lifelong Habs fan has had circled on his calendar since the NHL schedule was released last summer. Now, with his team entering the tilt sitting atop the League’s general standings with 100 points through 74 games, it’s finally here. “It’s going to be pretty cool. The last time I was there was with Vancouver. I really didn’t get the full effect. I played like a few shifts, so it was a disappointing day,” offered Weise, who played just under five minutes in his one and only trip to the Manitoban capital in an NHL uniform last January, three days before being dealt to the Canadiens. “This is something that’s far more special for me, playing in front of friends and family. Everybody knows I grew up a Canadiens fan. They were always Canadiens fans, too. It’s going to be cool to play at home, for sure.” It’s safe to say Weise’s cheering section will be especially strong for the Habs’ lone visit of the regular season to Jets territory. The five-year NHL veteran will have plenty of people in attendance to support not only him, but the team, too. “My folks will be there, so will [my wife] Lauren’s family. I’ll have a lot of friends there. My grandma and grandpa will be there. My brother, his wife and his family. A bunch of other friends will be in the stands, too, so I’ll be playing for free that day,” cracked Weise, who will be suiting up for his 89th career regular season game as a member of the Canadiens on Thursday night. “It’s well worth it, though. We only get to go there once a year, so it’s an experience I’m really looking forward to.” As are Weise’s parents, Miles and Barb, who watched their son work his way through Winnipeg’s minor hockey programs growing up before joining the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos prior to getting his pro career started back in 2008-09. “I think it will probably be the most special game they’ve seen me play up to this point in my career. Growing up Habs fans, we always talked about it when I was younger. I told them that I wanted to play in the NHL and to play for the Canadiens. To actually be doing it at home in front of them is going to be a pretty special game for all of us,” confided Weise, who boasts a career-high 10 goals, 28 points and a plus-21 differential in 71 games with the Canadiens during the 2014-15 campaign. “I think my mom will wear a Canadiens jersey. My dad will probably have his Habs hat on. He’ll try to be pretty low key with it.” That could prove tough given the MTS Centre’s reputation for being one of the more boisterous buildings in the NHL. While it might be the smallest rink in the League with a capacity of 15,004 spectators, its ability to fire up players and fans alike is well-documented. “I’ll be amped up. It will be at the top. I know the Jets are battling for a playoff spot. All of my friends and family cheer for the Jets when they’re not cheering for us, so they’ll be cheering for us that night. It’s a great atmosphere in that building. There’s no doubt about it,” offered Weise, who played his 250th career NHL game on Tuesday night in the Canadiens’ 3-2 overtime loss in Nashville. “Winnipeg is a very passionate city. It’s a blue-collar city. The rink might be small, but it’s extremely loud. I know when we play against them, it will be real loud. There are a lot of Canadiens fans everywhere. It’s going to be exciting.” Fortunately, the wait is almost over. “It’s been a dream come true playing for Montreal, my favorite team,” concluded Weise. “I went to a couple of Winnipeg Jets games when I was younger and stuff like that, but to actually be playing at home in Winnipeg, playing for the Montreal Canadiens against my hometown team, you just couldn’t write a better script than that.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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