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Chicago Blackhawks bring buzz to Montreal

- January 11th, 2014

MONTREAL – Okay, so they aren’t the hottest team in the NHL right now.
The Chicago Blackhawks are 5-1-4 in their last 10 games and are going through one of their leanest stretches of the season.
But the defending Stanley Cup champions, winners of two of the last four Cups, are about the closest thing we have to a dynasty in this salary cap era and with stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith they light up any rink they visit these days.
Remember what that used to be like, going back to, say, the Edmonton Oilers of the ’80s or the Detroit Red Wings of the ’90s and early 2000s?
You knew you were seeing something special when those teams came to town.
’Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has got one of the most talented teams in the league, but the thing that sets the ’Hawks apart is that skill combined with a pretty consistent work ethic.

“You’re not going to be great every night. I think the consistency of energy and effort across the board with our team is probably is as good as you’ll find with any team around over the course of the season.”
- Chicago coach Joel Quenneville

With his team not quite firing on all cylinders right now, Quenneville is going to shake things up for the game Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, promoting Marcus Kruger, recently named to Sweden’s Olympic team, to the second line with Kane and struggling Bryan Bickell.
“Over the course of the season you want to try different things. It gives you a chance when you don’t like the way things have gone over a stretch of games here. I think you usually get energy off it as well. I think that’s the thing we’re looking for,” said Quenneville.
“Kruger has played very well for us. Over the last stretch of games he’s been on of the forwards that seems to have pace to his game, some excitement in his game.
“I’m sure he’s excited about getting selected to represent his country, as well. Last game we moved him up because he deserved to be moved up the way he was playing. We wanted to shake the lines up with the way we were playing. To me, he earned a promotion.”
The ’Hawks are third overall in the NHL, four points behind the Anaheim Ducks.

Oilers are ‘like a junior team, sometimes’: Canadien Lars Eller

- October 22nd, 2013

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller doesn’t know what to expect from the Edmonton Oilers tonight at the Bell Centre.

“It can be anything, you know? They play a little bit like a junior team, I think, sometimes,” said Eller, tied for the scoring lead among Habs forwards along with linemate Alex Galchenyuk with seven points in seven games.

“They take a lot risks, a lot of chances. They’re a little all over the place. There’s not a lot of structure always in their game. It can really be anything. You don’t know.

“I prefer a little more structured game. Then again, I don’t mind high-scoring games, too. Obviously, we’re going to try with their skilled players to limit their chances.”

It will be interesting to see how the “junior team” comment goes over with the Oilers, no matter how close to the truth it might be.

What you can expect is for the Canadiens (5-3) and the Oilers (2-6-1) to throw two injury-riddled lineups on the ice tonight at the Bell Centre.

They have seven and six players injured respectively. The Canadiens lost forwards Daniel Briere (concussion, out indefinitely) and Brandon Prust (shoulder, one month) in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. They’re already without front-line winger Max Pacioretty, who’s out for three weeks with a hamstring strain.

The Canadiens called up Michael Blunden and Patrick Holland from Hamilton of the AHL for tonight’s game. They’ll play on the fourth line with Ryan White. Rookie Michael Bournival will move up to play with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.

Canadiens lines tonight vs. Edmonton Oilers

Alex Galchenyuk-Lars Eller-Brendan Gallagher

Michael Bournival-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta

Travis Moen-David Desharnais-Rene Bourque

Michael Blunden-Ryan White-Patrick Holland

The 21-year-old Holland, whom the Habs acquired in the Mike Cammalleri deal along with Rene Bourque (and a draft pick they turned into goaltender Zach Fucale), will be making his NHL debut.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Holland had a good training camp.

“We liked a lot of things. He’s a good skater and he’s got a good vision. He had a really good camp, a really good camp. He surprised some people. He went there to Hamilton and built on his training camp. Now it’s his first chance to get a taste of the regular season. We want him to be a good player like he was in training camp. He’s reading the game well. He’s got good skill. He skates well. This is what we’re expecting from him.”

Pacioretty injury has Habs fans uneasy in Montreal

- October 17th, 2013
pacioretty


Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty (centre) is helped off the ice by a trainer and teammate Lars Eller during NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (Brian Donogh/QMI Agency)

MONTREAL – The Canadiens are back from a successful 3-1 road trip through the Canadian west which featured some strong play from goaltender Carey Price, but there’s an uneasiness here heading into Thursday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The source of the dread is the status of front-line winger Max Pacioretty, who was injured less than five minutes into the win against the Winnipeg Jets in the final game of the trip.

Pacioretty wasn’t putting any weight on his left leg when he was helped off the ice after being taken down by Jets forward James Wright in front of the Winnipeg net.

Pacioretty had an MRI Monday and Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said there could be an update on Pacioretty’s status before the game with the Blue Jackets.

In the meantime, forward Rene Bourque has the flu and is a game-time decision, so if he can’t go, the Canadiens will play with seven defencemen tonight.

The Canadiens lines at the morning skate looked like this:
Alex Galchenyuk-Lars Eller-Brendan Gallagher
Brandon Prust-David Desharnais-Daniel Briere
Travis Moen-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta
Nathan Beaulieu-Michael Bournival-Ryan White

We’ll update things later if word on Pacioretty comes down.

Pacioretty joins growing injury list in NHL

- October 5th, 2013

MONTREAL – The season is just five days old, but the injury count is quickly mounting in the NHL.
Checking out the game notes from around the league, it looks like there are close to 70 players unavailable to their teams for tonight’s games.
There have been 545 players to play in the NHL going into Saturday night’s games, so that’s about 11.4 percent of the league’s manpower in sick bay.
The peak in last year’s shortened season was about 127 players out with injuries or sickness, so 70 seems like a pretty high number already (it includes, of course, guys injured in training camp).
Unknown
Added to the list today was Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty, who is not expected to play tonight when the Canadiens (0-1) host the Philadelphia Flyers (0-1) and Vincent Lecavalier.
Pacioretty hurt his left wrist/forearm when he was hit by Toronto’s Colton Orr in the Canadiens opener Tuesday night. He returned to the game, but was pretty ineffective.
With enforcer George Parros already out with a concussion, it’s expected rookie Michael Bournival and Ryan White will go into the Canadiens’ lineup tonight.
The starting goaltenders are expected to be Carey Price for the Canadiens and Ray Emery for the Flyers.

Briere will be thinking of his mom tonight at Bell Centre

- October 1st, 2013

MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency

MONTREAL – It’s taken a few twists and turns and a few years, but Daniel Briere, the Gatineau, Que., native who grew up a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, will be wearing the legendary Sainte Flanelle tonight at the Bell Centre.

The 35-year-old signed a two-year deal with the Habs during the summer and he said this morning he will be thinking about his late mother, Constance, when he skates into the ice for the first time for a regular-season game as a Hab for the opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“The Canadiens were our team in our household,” said Briere, who added his mom would be proud to see him in the red, white and blue.

Constance passed away unexpectedly at age 63 from a brain hemorrhage two summers ago while Briere was home visting during the off-season.

She used to water the backyard rink for him, his siblings and other kids in the neighbourhood when he was growing up.

Despite their Canadiens leanings, Briere said his mom and dad stayed in the background when he had a decision to make between the Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers when he was a free agent in the summer of 2007.

“There were lots of other people tugging in different directions,” he said.

Briere will hear cheers tonight compared to the rough reception he got from Habs fans after spurning the Canadiens in favour of the Flyers.

The treatment he got here was tough on Constance.

“It wasn’t easy for her to hear the boos in the stands,” said Briere.

Briere will play on the Habs’ top line with David Desharnais at centre and Max Pacioretty on left wing.

He won’t have any problem getting into the Leafs-Canadiens rivalry.

“We had a big rivalry with the Leafs when I played in Buffalo. The Leafs were probably the team I hated the most,” he said.

He said he slept well last night, but it might be a different story when it came to his afternoon nap.

“Part of the plan was to enjoy this,” said Briere. “I’m trying to enjoy the feeling of being a Montreal Canadien.”