The Canadiens practiced Sunday in Raleigh North Carolina in preparation for their game against the Hurricanes Monday. In an effort to find that elusive scoring balance, Michel Therrien has shaken up his second and third lines again basically by switching centremen Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller. Therrien also announced Carey Price will be his starting goaltender for the 11th straight game.
Here’s the way it looked at Sunday practice –
Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Gallagher
Desharnais – Plekanec – Parenteau
Sekac – Eller – Prust
Bournival/Andrighetto – Malhotra – Weise
Whether it’s Bournival or Andrighetto on the fourth line will be a gametime decision.
The defense remains the same. Mike Weaver and Byron Allen made up a fourth pairing and they’ll be healthy scratches Monday night.
Markov – Subban
Gonchar – Beaulieu
Emelin – Gilbert
CANADIENS DEFENSE SECOND BEST IN THE EAST
This one slipped by almost everyone. In all of the publicity Carey Price is getting for the spectacular nature of his last 18 games (1.71GAA; .939save%), the Canadiens as a team have quietly moved into second place in the Eastern Conference in goals against average giving up 2.4 per game. Only Pittsburgh at 2.37 has given up fewer. All of this despite those six losses in which they gave up four or more goals. Credit price for a lot of it but, along the way Sergei Gonchar was added to the team, Nathan Beaulieu was recalled from Hamilton and P.K. Subban re-united with Andrei Markov.
THE IMPROVING OFFENSE
At least for now, we’ll continue to view the November 8th Guy Lapointe night 4-1 win over Minnesota as the watershed game for the Canadiens. Going into that game the Habs may have had a winning record (9-4-1) but they ranked 13th in the East in goal differential at minus-8. (only Carolina, Columbus and Buffalo were worse). In the 21 games since, the combination of Canadiens defense and offense has gone from minus-8 to plus-11. On average, goals per game have gone from 2.35 to 2.95 while goals against have gone from 2.92 per game through the first 14 to 2.04 over the next 21. A remarkable turnaround which has turned their questionable position as one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference into a wholly legitimate one.
THE CANADIENS 2013 DRAFT BEARS EARLY FRUIT
Marc Bergevin constantly harps on “character” as one of the most important things he looks for when judging talent. His 2013 NHL draft has presented him with a boatload of it.
Led by second rounder Jacob de la Rose, three of the Canadiens choices are here in Canada as captains of their respective World Junior Hockey Championship teams. All three of them are playing in professional leagues with a year of junior hockey eligibility remaining.
The leftwinger De la Rose, who is on loan from the Hamilton Bulldogs for the tournament, is not only Sweden’s captain but also the second leading scorer with two goals, two assists in two games.
Left wing Artturi Lehkonen, also a 2013 second round pick wears the “C” for Finland. He’s been playing with Frölunda in the Swedish League this season. And Martin Reway, also a left winger, is captain of the Slovak entry in the tournament. Reway left Gatineau in the QMJHL this season to play with Sparta Prague in the Czech League. Reway was a 2013-fourth round pick.
SCOTT GOMEZ REACHES MILESTONE
Scott Gomez played in his 1,000th career NHL game on Saturday. There are any number of Canadiens fans who will read this in disbelief. Seemingly persona-non-grata after being bought out by the Canadiens and then drifting from San Jose to Florida at near minimum NHL wage, Gomez was forced to beg his way into the New Jersey Devils training camp in September. He wasn’t good enough to make the Devils but stayed on and practiced with them until injuries presented an opening. He’s has 7 points in 13 games with them this season. His final year with the Canadiens he had 11 points in 38 games. Only 296 players in NHL history have played in 1,000 games.