Notebook – October 23, 2014

Posted on 23 October 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – In today’s notebook, the Canadiens reflect on the tragedy that struck the nation’s capital, and players gather for some team bonding. Pausing to reflect: After practice on Thursday, a few Habs shared their thoughts on the tragic events that took place in Ottawa. For some, the images on television and social media evoked painful memories. Such was the case for Mississauga native, Manny Malhotra. “It must’ve been a terrifying experience for those people that found themselves near those buildings. It brought me back to September 2001, when I was in New York as a member of the Rangers,” mentioned Malhotra, who was then starting his fourth season in the NHL. “That feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing what’s going on, or where to go in order to be safe is hard. It’s definitely a sad day for Ottawa. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those affected by the tragedy.” “I was at home when I heard. Obviously, I saw it on the news and I think I felt like most Canadians,” offered Brendan Gallagher. “It was a little scary. You obviously know that evil is out there, but you don’t think about it too much, so for Ottawa to go through that right now is tough. I think everyone around the world is sending their thoughts and prayers to them. I think we’re doing a good job of understanding that it’s an isolated situation. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again. I think everyone involved did a great job.” Trick-or-Treat: The Canadiens gathered at Flyjin Restaurant in the Old Port on Wednesday night for the team’s annual Halloween party. It marked the perfect opportunity for Michel Therrien’s troops to enjoy each other’s company after a stellar start to the 2014-15 campaign. “It was a lot of fun. A Halloween party is always the first party you have as a team, so as a newcomer it’s a good way to get to know the rest of the guys. It’s good to see their fun side. We really enjoyed it,” offered Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who attended the event dressed as a bank robber. “It wasn’t a very original costume, but it was a good time.” When it came time to selecting his outfit, Brendan Gallagher elected to pay tribute to some of his childhood idols. “I was Leonardo. I was a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan growing up, so it was a dream come true for me,” joked the 22-year-old right-winger, before weighing in on P.K. Subban’s decision to transform himself into Michael Jackson for the party with the help of makeup artist, Lisa-Marie Charron. “That was good. It was a little bit scary just how good it was, but it was pretty good.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Sparkplug on D

Posted on 22 October 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Was Alexei Emelin deliberately trying to send Milan Lucic a message when he delivered a thundering open-ice hit on the Bruins power forward just 2:06 into the Canadiens’ home opener last Thursday night? “No, no,” insisted the 28-year-old defenseman, who, some 18 months earlier, came out on the wrong side of a hit attempt on Lucic at the Bell Centre, suffering a devastating knee injury that forced him to undergo season-ending surgery and ultimately miss the first six weeks of the 2013-14 campaign. “Playing against Boston isn’t special for me. I treat it like a regular game.” While that may be the case, Emelin’s coaches and teammates are adamant that the Russian rearguard’s regular contributions in the physicality department – and his ability to rise to the occasion in key moments, no matter the opposition – have been vital to the Canadiens’ cause in more ways than one early on in 2014-15. “He’s been one of the leaders on the defensive end since the day I got here. The way he plays with no fear and makes those big hits on key players on other teams really gives us a spark. Personally, it really gets me going,” offered Alex Galchenyuk, who, like Andrei Markov, can often be seen communicating with Emelin in his native tongue. “I’m always surprised by Alexei. We’ll be flying on the plane or sitting on the team bus, and I’m constantly asking him how he does it. He enjoys the physical game. It’s a part of his passion. It’s fun to see from the bench. That’s for sure. “It’s like when someone gets into a fight or gets a big goal. That’s how games are built. They’re built on momentum. Not every game goes well, so you’ve got to hope for that momentum. A good hit can bring that,” added Galchenyuk, who has been a teammate of Emelin’s since breaking into the NHL back in 2012-13. “Alexei can really get the guys fired up, whether it’s the start of the game, the middle or the end. We’re lucky to have him.” That’s certainly the consensus inside the locker room, as the Habs’ reigning hit champion three-years running has steadily earned the respect of his peers with his remarkable ability to play a predominantly physical, yet relatively clean brand of hockey game in and game out. “He has to be abrasive. That doesn’t mean fighting. There’s a little sandpaper in his game. That’s really his identity, to be abrasive around the net, and to be abrasive defending the rush – with discipline,” explained assistant coach J.J. Daigneault, who has helped Emelin fine-tune his game since joining the Canadiens’ staff back in June 2012. “That’s just who Emmy is. Good defensive defensemen say – “I’ll be abrasive. I’ll play in your face.” He can set the tempo for a game or generate emotion. That’s Alexei. He’s a great asset to have on your hockey club.” But, the four-year NHL veteran isn’t only contributing to the Canadiens’ success by throwing his weight around and rattling opponents’ cages. Returning to his natural side this season alongside Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban has afforded the Togliatti native a chance to assert himself both offensively and defensively, showcasing noticeable improvement in both facets of his game. “I think Emmy benefits from being back at his regular position on the left side on both fronts. He’s been able to get some good shots through from the blue line and our forwards are either tipping or jumping on rebounds. Last season, in order to get some offense from the back side, it was all about his one-timer from Marky. Now, we’re working on him getting the puck to his forehand, fanning out to the wall, and looking for lanes,” offered Daigneault, who believes Emelin’s willingness to learn and ever-growing comfort level in Montreal has played an integral part in his developing into a more complete player. “Defensively, we get the sense that he’s not getting caught flat-footed as often. And, I think pivoting comes more naturally on his left side. He’s quicker on pucks, and he has a very good stick this year, especially around the net. He’s blocking shots. I see him with a fresh start on the left side, and a heightened confidence level.” Subban senses a change in Emelin in that regard, too, particularly when it comes to the one-time Olympian’s desire to chip in on offense at every opportunity. “He does it all. I don’t think people give him enough credit for his offense and what he brings to the table. He does bring that offensive flair. He can find guys, shoot the puck, and put the puck on net in good areas. He also does a really good job of moving the puck out of the zone. He should get more credit for it,” stressed Subban, who claims to communicate with Emelin on the ice with a few choice Russian words that he admits to having trouble repeating. “He’s starting to feel a lot more comfortable on the ice. I’m happy that I’m playing with him, and I’m happy that he’s playing well.” Getting Emelin to the point where he is now, Daigneault recalls, wasn’t always smooth-sailing. The former KHL standout struggled to return to form when he rejoined the Canadiens last November following an operation to repair ACL and MCL tears in his left knee. After registering a minus-12 differential in the 10 games leading up to the Habs’ first game of the new calendar year in Dallas last January, Emelin was a healthy scratch for the tilt in the Lone Star State. “We did a lot with Emmy last year. I remember a video session in Dallas where I must’ve had 20 clips of things I didn’t like that he was doing. I said – “Digest that, and later on tonight I’ll show you 20 clips of things I really like in your game.” I kind of chunked it in the A.M. and P.M. Then, we went from there. He knew he had to improve and he knew what he had to do,” confided Daigneault, who believes the decision to have Emelin take in the game from the press box was a move that yielded important results in the long run. “He kind of progressed from that point. When you feel that you’re not playing up to par, your confidence slides and the only way to rebuild it is to have success. He had a good training camp. He’s healthy. He’s got one more year under his belt. I like the way he’s playing within our team concept.” That certainly applies to the manner in which Emelin and Subban have quickly laid the groundwork for a successful partnership that appears to have gelled in short order. “The two of them have a good passing game and they have a good defensive support game as well. So far, I’m very pleased with the way they support one another and read off one another. They break out well together. There’s been good chemistry thus far,” offered Daigneault, praising the manner in which the pair complements one another rather well. “When they keep things simple, with their passing game, they’re always in good shape.” With that in mind, it’s safe to say the future looks bright for the rugged defender, who continues to make significant strides with every passing season. “It hasn’t just been a good start for me,” concluded Emelin, who has put up five points in five games in 2014-15. “I think it’s been a pretty good start for the whole team.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Power performer

Posted on 22 October 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – When Alex Galchenyuk is on his game, the chances of shutting him down are slim to none. The Red Wings learned that lesson the hard way on Tuesday night. With the Canadiens down 1-0 late in the third period, the 20-year-old forward won a critical one-on-one battle with Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey down low, before beating goaltender Jimmy Howard on a wraparound to send the game to overtime. That set the stage for David Desharnais’ eventual game-winner 56 seconds into the extra frame, lifting Michel Therrien’s troops to a 2-1 win at the Bell Centre. In the aftermath of the Canadiens’ third straight victory, one that secured the team’s best start to a season since the 1977-78 campaign, Therrien was quick to praise his team’s overall resiliency, while giving Galchenyuk his due for a job well done. “He’s playing well. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. For a young player, he’s been making great progress over the last few years since joining us at the age of 18. He managed to score a big goal. It’s all because of his competitive spirit. He really competed to score that goal. We’re really satisfied with his play,” offered the Habs’ bench boss, who watched as the three-year NHL veteran registered his third goal of the season and chipped in with four shots on goal and three hits while logging 16:12 of ice time. “Waging battles like those [with Quincey] comes with confidence. That comes with maturity. Galchenyuk competes really hard. But, that’s the reason why he scored that goal because he competes,” added Therrien. “His battle level is there. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. There’s good chemistry with him, Plekanec and Parenteau. The kid’s got character. That’s what we like about him.” While Galchenyuk was pleased to come up big late in regulation time on Tuesday night, the Milwaukee, WI native stressed the fact that the Canadiens’ sixth victory of the season was ultimately a direct result of sticking together as a cohesive unit and never letting up against a talented contingent that entered the tilt seeking its third consecutive win, too. “We have good leaders on this team. We’re a great character team. We always believe in ourselves. It was a pretty chippy game. It was real tight and we couldn’t really get all of the chances we wanted. We started playing our game in the third period. We were going to the net more. That’s what we have to do to be successful, and that’s what we hope to continue doing in future games,” stressed Galchenyuk, who now ranks second on the Canadiens with seven points on the season. “I don’t really try to pay attention to who I’m battling. My job was to win most of those battles. That’s what I did in the end, and luckily I put it in.” In P.K. Subban’s eyes, Galchenyuk’s penchant for lighting the lamp isn’t about luck at all. The 2013 Norris Trophy winner is adamant that the former third-overall selection continues to exhibit the qualities that will make him a perennial scoring threat for years to come. “Everyone’s got to win their one-on-one battles out there. It’s not just Chucky on Kyle Quincey. That’s how you win hockey games. Chucky did a good job of sticking with it. He’s a skilled player. It’s not easy when guys are in your face like that. That’s what we need. That’s what championship teams do. Their skilled players still battle through adversity,” explained Subban, who picked up his second assist of the season on Desharnais’ tally in the extra frame. “Skilled players show the tenacity that Galchenyuk showed against Detroit. He scored that goal, and he deserved to score it.” And, in a game in which the Canadiens outshot, outhit and generally outmaneuvered their Atlantic Division rivals, they deserved to walk away with another two big points in the standings. “We’ve got a group of guys that always wants to get better. They’ve got exemplary work ethic. It’s been there since training camp. It’s a group that wants to improve and wants to work. They’re not scared of any challenge. They deserve their success because of their motivation to perform,” concluded Therrien, whose club now sits atop the league with 12 points. “We knew we were playing a team that didn’t give very much, but we got 36 shots and we got our chances. Finally, with our hard work, we got some goals. I know that we’re heading in the right direction.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

The Numbers Game – October 21, 2014

Posted on 22 October 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL - Here's a numerical look at Tuesday's game between the Canadiens and the Red Wings at the Bell Centre. 600 – Number of career games Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall has suited up for in the NHL, including Tuesday night’s tilt against the Canadiens. Kronwall debuted with the Red Wings back in 2003-04, and has played his entire career in the Motor City. The Swedish rearguard was selected 29th overall by the Red Wings in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. 2 – Number of shots Manny Malhotra generated during a single sequence in the first period on Tuesday night, matching the number of shots the Canadiens forward had previously generated in six regular season games combined to date. 11 – Number of blocked shots the Canadiens amassed during the opening period on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, eight more than their counterparts from Detroit. Eight Habs chipped in with at least one blocked shot, with defenseman Mike Weaver leading the way with three of his own. 13:14 – Ice time logged by Dale Weise in his return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Tuesday night after sitting out the team’s previous two games as a healthy scratch. Weise was a force to be reckoned with on a line with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque, dishing out six hits during the tilt. 15 – Number of Canadiens that registered at least one shot on Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard on Tuesday night. Forwards Brandon Prust and Travis Moen, and defenseman Mike Weaver were the only Habs that didn’t register a shot on goal. 3 – Number of goals scored by Alex Galchenyuk thus far this season, tying him for second place on the team in that category alongside P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher. Galchenyuk scored the game-tying goal with 3:09 remaining in the third period on Tuesday night. -

Game Preview: Red Wings @ Canadiens

Posted on 21 October 2014 | Comments Off

RED WINGS (3-1-1) @ CANADIENS (5-1-0) Looking for a sixth win in just seven games so far this season, the Habs could repeat the feat last achieved during the start of the 1977-78 season with a win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Riding a two-game win streak over the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche, the Canadiens are enjoying an explosive start to the season on offense, currently tied for second in the NHL for most goals scored with 20. On defense however, the Habs’ 20 goals allowed are ranked 25th in the league, having conceded the first goal in five of six games played so far – a stat head coach Michel Therrien will be hoping to improve on opposite Detroit. The Red Wings for their part are also enjoying a strong start to the 2014-15 season, racking up seven of a total ten possible points in five games so far, notably besting the Toronto Maple Leafs in a pair of back-to-back games over the weekend in which the Wings allowed just one goal in 125 minutes of play. Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg will be a player to watch, after registering four assists last Friday alone, before scoring the overtime winner on Saturday against the Leafs. Pavel Datsyuk, meanwhile, could be back in the lineup tonight for the first time since being sidelined by injury on September 22, although Johan Franzen won’t be on the ice after being placed on the seven-game injured list. Mike Babcock has also confirmed that Jimmy Howard will be back in the visitors net on Tuesday after Jonas Gustavsson got the start on Saturday.

Leading man

Posted on 20 October 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Winning draws is an art form few players have mastered, but Manny Malhotra is a part of that elite group. The 34-year-old centerman, who signed a one-year deal with the Canadiens back on July 1st, has been nothing short of dominant in the faceoff circle since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, having bested his opponents 66.3 percent of the time through six games – tops amongst all regular Canadiens centermen to date. Last Saturday night, the 16-year NHL veteran won a season-high 72.2 percent of his draws in the Canadiens’ 3-2 win over the Avalanche. That being said, it hasn’t taken long for his new coaches and teammates to recognize just how valuable a commodity the Mississauga native has proven to be early on. “It’s one of the reasons why we went out and got him over the summer. We understand the importance of winning faceoffs. He does excellent work defensively, too, not only on faceoffs. He kills penalties. He’s a huge addition for us, especially because we can use him when the game is on the line. He takes a lot of pride in the fact that he wins those draws,” praised head coach Michel Therrien, who has utilized Malhotra in a fourth-line role alongside the likes of wingers Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and Dale Weise. “He’s an extraordinary person. He’s a well-respected athlete within our group, and that’s been the case everywhere he’s played. He’s a nice acquisition for us.” Malhotra, who previously suited up for the Rangers, Stars, Blue Jackets, Sharks, Canucks and Hurricanes before joining the Canadiens three-and-a-half months ago, is adamant that his success in the faceoff circle goes far beyond relying on skill alone. “It’s really just having that mentality of focusing on your task. I don’t think enough credit goes out to our wingers and our defensemen who are winning a lot of those 50-50 puck battles and those scrambles for loose pucks, too. I say it all the time. We’ve done a good job of having that mentality of putting five men on the draw. It’s worked for us,” confided Malhotra, who consistently ranks in the Top 5 in faceoff win percentage league-wide, and boasts 115 goals and 291 points in 939 career NHL games. “You have to respect the guys out there with you. They’re the ones that jump on the puck.” It also doesn’t hurt to have taken an estimated 11,183 draws against a myriad of centermen during stints in both the Eastern and Western Conference. “If I’m good at what I do, it’s also because of my technique and my speed. The more you take draws, the better your timing will be. And, I know how other players take draws, too. I’ve got a little book with a page dedicated to each centerman in the NHL. It comes with experience and repetition,” confided Malhotra, who continues to perfect his technique with the help of assistant coach Dan Lacroix at some point during most, if not every on-ice practice session. “I take a lot of pride in my work.” That certainly shows in the way the father of two goes about his business on the ice, demonstrating the class and professionalism that has defined him since making his NHL debut during the 1998-99 campaign. “Early in my career, I realized that if you respect referees and linesmen, it helps a lot. If you want to yell at them and swear at them, things become a lot more difficult in the faceoff circle,” mentioned Malhotra, who overcame a career-threatening eye-injury suffered in March 2011, returning to full-time NHL duty last season in Carolina. “I have a good relationship with linesmen. I respect them. I understand that I have to work with them, not against them.” Whatever Malhotra’s formula for success might be, it’s safe to say sticking to it has paid dividends time and again over the course of a stellar NHL career. “I hope the job of being a faceoff specialist will remain something that’s important to teams in the league,” concluded Malhotra, who was a finalist for the 2013-14 Bill Masterton Trophy. “That means that there will always be a place for me.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Taking control

Posted on 19 October 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Michel Therrien’s troops couldn’t solve Calvin Pickard early on Saturday night, but P.K. Subban wasn’t about to let the rookie netminder leave La Belle Province with his first career NHL victory. The 2013 Norris Trophy winner lit the lamp twice in the second period, including a highlight-reel tally that sent the Bell Centre faithful into a frenzy, to lift the Canadiens to a 3-2 win and their second straight victory. It was also the Habs’ fifth win in their last six games to start the year. “I think that we just stuck with it. They got a fortunate bounce early in the game and they scored early, but I think we did a good job sticking to the game plan. We’ve done a pretty good job of that all year. Not every game is going to go the way you want, but I thought collectively as a group we played a pretty solid game,” offered Subban, who registered his second and third goals of the season while logging just over 21 minutes of ice time against Colorado. Subban’s second marker, which proved to be the eventual game-winner, came just 12 seconds after the six-year NHL veteran had finished serving a minor penalty for holding Avalanche centerman Nathan MacKinnon. Despite turning Pickard inside out with what will surely go down as one of the most memorable moves of the 2014-15 campaign, Subban couldn’t help but address the need for him to play a more disciplined brand of hockey on a consistent basis going forward. “I was still ticked off that I took a stupid penalty. I’ve got to stay out of the box. I’m taking penalties every game. It’s fine now that we’re winning, but I’ve got to stay out of the box. It’s great to get the goal, but just because you do one thing wrong and then do one thing right doesn’t kind of even things out,” confessed the 2014 Olympic gold-medalist, who leads the Canadiens with 14 penalty minutes through six games. “If you’re going to be a leader on the team, you need to set the example. I haven’t done a good job of that. I was happy to get the goal though, for sure.” And, the Canadiens’ bench boss was certainly happy for him, praising Subban’s all-around effort in a game that saw both teams play a run-and-gun style from start to finish. “We’ve been talking about discipline a lot as a team lately. The players are aware of it. But, I think P.K. played a solid game,” offered Therrien, whose club now sits atop the league with 10 points. “He’s been a lot more responsible with and without the puck. He also scored two goals, including one spectacular goal. I really liked his involvement against Colorado.” That applied to the team as a whole, too. Not only did the Canadiens get off to a good start, outshooting the Avalanche by a 17-11 margin in the first period, but they also dominated in the takeaway department and blocked 23 Colorado shot attempts along the way. “We’re avoiding mistakes and turnovers, and putting more of a focus on getting pucks to the net and getting shots, winning one-on-one battles and winning races. We’re focusing on the small steps that it takes to be successful. They’re consistently coming through more and more now,” explained Manny Malhotra, who won 72 percent of his draws on Saturday night, coming out on top 13 times in 18 opportunities. “I think our overall game on a nightly basis is getting better. We’re playing a more straight line game which is what we need to do to be successful consistently. We have to play like that.” That’s something Carey Price expanded upon after picking up his fourth win of the season. “I thought this was our best game of the six we’ve played. I thought we played a pretty complete package,” offered Price, who stopped 32 of 34 shots against to up his record to 4-1-0 on the season. “The fact that we’re tightening up defensively just stems from our tenacity in the offensive zone. That’s the type of hockey we were playing at the end of the season last year and really what made us successful. We’re starting to execute our system better, and we’re bringing that tenacity.” Which, as we as all know, is the first sign that this edition of the Canadiens is gelling as intended. “The more we continue, the more I get the sense that we’re playing better and better hockey. We played with a lot of energy and we put a lot of pressure on the opposing team. Without those big saves by Pickard, we could’ve taken a bigger lead,” concluded Therrien. “I really liked the way we started out the game, and I liked the way we were engaged.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

The Numbers Game – October 18, 2014

Posted on 19 October 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL - Here's a numerical look at Saturday's game between the Canadiens and the Avalanche at the Bell Centre. 2,501 – Number of games Canadiens equipment manager Pierre Gervais has worked behind the bench, including Saturday night’s game against the Avalanche. Gervais, who hit the 2,500 game mark on Thursday night against Boston, was honored for reaching the milestone in a pre-game ceremony prior to the opening faceoff. 5 – Number of games thus far this season in which the Canadiens have conceded the first goal of the hockey game, including Saturday night’s game against Colorado. Despite falling behind early on multiple occasions, the Canadiens still boast a 5-1-0 record on the season. 103 – Number of games Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau suited up for over the course of two seasons with the Avalanche. Parenteau went up against his former team for the first time in regular season play on Saturday night since being dealt to the Canadiens back in June. 16 – Number of shots the Canadiens fired at rookie netminder Calvin Pickard during the first period on Saturday night. Michel Therrien’s troops tested the Avalanche rookie time and again, but failed to light the lamp through 20 minutes of play. The game marked the second start of Pickard’s NHL career. 22 – Number of teams against which P.K. Subban has now scored a goal, adding the Avalanche to that list on Saturday night with a power play tally on Calvin Pickard in the second period. Anaheim, Columbus, Detroit, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington remain the only teams that Subban hasn’t lit up as of yet. 3 – Number of multi-goal games P.K. Subban has registered over the course of his NHL career, including Saturday night’s tilt against the Avalanche. Subban’s second goal of the night set the Bell Centre crowd on fire as the talented rearguard capped a sensational individual effort with a move that left Calvin Pickard helpless in goal. 7 - Number of shots Max Pacioretty registered against Colorado, a season-high for the Canadiens' power forward thus far during the 2014-15 campaign. Pacioretty led all Habs in that department on Saturday night. -

Game Preview : Avalanche @ Canadiens

Posted on 18 October 2014 | Comments Off

AVALANCHE (1-3-1) @ CANADIENS (4-1-0) The Canadiens will look to continue their impressive start to the season on Saturday night when the Colorado Avalanche stop by the Bell Centre. In their most recent game, the Habs celebrated their home opener in style on Thursday night, with a 6-4 win over the Boston Bruins. In their first game in front of the home crowd, Jiri Sekac and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau each notched their first goals in bleu-blanc-rouge, with Parenteau lighting the lamp twice after backhanding the insurance marker into an open net to close out the evening. The line of Brendan Gallagher (2G, 1A), David Desharnais (2A) and Max Pacioretty (1G, 2A) continued their offensive assault in the outing, combining for 10 shots and eight points against Boston. Carey Price made 25 stops to win his third game in four starts in 2014-15. The Avalanche were also in action on Thursday, taking part in their third game in four nights, this time facing off against the Senators in Ottawa. Despite heading into the first intermission riding a 3-1 lead, the Avs saw their cushion slowly slip away, with the Sens managing to pot four unanswered goals over the next two periods to finish with a 5-3 win. Alex Tanguay, John Mitchell and Gabriel Landeskog scored for Colorado, in what was a fourth loss for the team in five games so far this season. After losing his starting netminder in Semyon Varlamov earlier this week, head coach Patrick Roy also saw his backup goalie, Reto Berra, succumb to injury at the start of the game in Ottawa. Rookie Calvin Pickard made his NHL debut in replacement, finishing the game between the pipes. Given that Berra wasn't able to recover from his neck injury in time for Saturday night, Pickard will get to enjoy his first NHL start against the Habs and will be backed up by AHL call-up, Sami Aittokallio. The Canadiens’ starter is a little more clear, as Price will be given the nod against the Avs, looking to build on his 1-2-1 record against Colorado in his career. While they each had a chance to face their respective former teams during the preseason after being swapped this summer, Parenteau and Daniel Briere will get to do so for the first time in the regular season on Saturday night. The new Habs forward has exploded out of the gate to start the season with five points in as many games, while Briere has just one goal and an assist in his first five starts. His lone goal was a milestone marker, as it was the 300th of his NHL career. Saturday’s game will be the first of two between the Habs and Avs this season, with the other tilt scheduled for early December in Denver. The last time the Avalanche left the Bell Centre with a win dates back to the 2011-12 campaign, currently owning a 4-6-2 lifetime record in 12 visits to Montreal since moving to Colorado.

A winning combination

Posted on 17 October 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – It hasn't taken the line of Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty long to pick up right where it left off last season. Back together again after a brief period apart to start the year, the trio came to life on Thursday night against the Bruins, combining for three goals and eight points to help the Canadiens secure their fourth win in their last five games. For his part, Gallagher is the most recent addition to the line, which originally featured Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau alongside Desharnais and Pacioretty when the season kicked off back on October 8th in Toronto. Since head coach Michel Therrien juggled his lines in Washington, however, reuniting the Canadiens’ most-utilized trio in 2013-14, all three of his troops have managed to hit their stride in short order, wasting little time showcasing the chemistry that defined them as a cohesive unit during one of the most successful seasons in recent memory. “We came back together pretty quickly. We didn’t miss too much time, so I think that when we got back together we just knew the way we had to play to be successful. We knew the style that each guy plays. It didn’t take long to get used to each other. Hopefully, we can continue to get better,” offered Gallagher, who is coming off the first multi-goal game of his NHL career after registering a pair of goals against Boston. “As a line, I think we do a good job of supporting each other and nobody holds on to the puck for too long. We’re moving it around and everyone’s involved. I think that’s what makes us successful.” In Gallagher’s eyes, the line’s ability to come together and click ever so seamlessly isn’t due to familiarity alone. The three-year NHL veteran believes that combining unique skill sets is something that cannot be underestimated when it comes to terrorizing opposing defenders and ultimately lighting the lamp. “I just think it’s a good mix. We all bring something different to the line. When you look at Davey, he’s obviously an unbelievable playmaker. He’s one of the best in the NHL at finding you. No matter where you are on the ice, you’ve got to be ready to get the puck. With Patch, he’s got elite skill, especially with the way he skates and shoots. It’s something that opponents have got to be really aware of. That opens up space for other guys,” mentioned Gallagher, who posted a career-high 19 goals last season. “As a line, I think it makes it pretty easy for us to do our jobs.” The numbers from last season alone suggest that’s definitely been the case. Not only did Gallagher, Desharnais and Pacioretty tally a combined 74 goals and 153 points in 2013-14, but they also accounted for 35.4 percent of the team’s total markers. “We do a lot of talking throughout the game. It’s more when we get to the bench. We’re talking about little ways that if we do get in a situation where guys are going to be, we’re aware of it. It pays off throughout the year,” stressed Gallagher, who sits tied for second on the team alongside Parenteau with five points on the year. “You get back in that same situation again, and you understand things. Instead of having to think about a play, it just happens.” Acutely aware of the fact that the makeup of any given line is subject to change at a moment’s notice, Gallagher is adamant that the goal now is strictly for the trio to keep trending in the right direction while putting points on the board at every opportunity. “The lines are going to be switched up over the course of a season. As a player, your role is to perform, regardless of who your playing partners are. It’s definitely fun to play with those two guys, and as long as we’re having success together, there’s no reason to split us up,” indicated Gallagher, who currently leads the Habs with 17 shots on goal. “We were successful against the Bruins, but you have to remember that it’s just one game. I know that 82 games make a season, so we’ve got to find a way to do it consistently." Based on how Gallagher, Desharnais and Pacioretty have gelled early on, there’s no reason to believe they won’t find that magic more often than not from here on out. Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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