While the Canadiens had the day off Sunday, the Washington Capitals held a noon-hour practice in Brossard before their matchup Monday night at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., SNE, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
There was some good news for Canadiens fans before the Capitals practised, when Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron both skated for more than 20 minutes. Both Canadiens players have been sidelined with injuries. Shaw has missed 11 games since suffering a concussion against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 12, while Byron missed his first game Saturday with an upper-body injury that appeared to be a concussion suffered Jan. 4 against the Dallas Stars.
The Canadiens are coming off an impressive 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs Saturday night in Toronto while the Capitals were beating the Senators 1-0 in Ottawa.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz was asked after Sunday’s practice if it was held to keep his players from enjoying a late Saturday night in downtown Montreal after arriving from Ottawa.
“No,” Trotz said with a big smile. “We’re a veteran team. I started here a couple of years ago and we had pretty well no children on our team. Now I think we’re the proud parents of about 30 kids that are now part of our family room. We’re a pretty (big) family group now.”
The Canadiens will hold their morning skate at 11 a.m. Monday in Brossard.
Capitals have avoided injury bug up to now
Heading into Saturday’s game in Ottawa, the Capitals were the only team in the NHL without a single player on the injured list. However, T.J. Oshie suffered an upper-body injury after being checked by the Senators’ Dion Phaneuf and Tom Wilson suffered a lower-body injury after being hit with a shot Saturday night.
Trotz said after Sunday’s practice he wasn’t certain what the status of either player would be for Monday’s game.
The Canadiens were missing seven injured regulars in their lineup Saturday night in Toronto, while the Capitals have lost only nine man-games total this season due to injury.
“Montreal’s done a really great job of that with all their injuries,” Trotz said. “They’ve had guys step up in that resilient, all-in mode.
“When we have guys go down, that’s where you find out who’s able,” the Capitals coach added. “Every player that I know wants more ice time. And when they get the opportunity to get more ice time it really determines what they do with it. And if they can take a hold of it, you really can change a coach’s or an organizational mindset on a player if he gets an opportunity and does really well with it.”
Trotz said the Capitals — like all NHL teams — try to manage the players’ rest and workload to avoid injuries, but added the fact his team is bigger than most in terms of average size helps.
“In a game that’s gruelling and at times physical, it’s fast, you’re going to run into each other,” the coach said. “And I think sometimes when you’re able to take a little bigger shot (it helps) sometimes because you’re bigger physically.
“Sometimes it’s just luck, plain and simple,” Trotz added. “There’s some injuries that are going to happen, it doesn’t matter what you do, what equipment you have on. And some guys are more durable than others. We just try to have a real good balance with our players and we’ve been fortunate that way.”
Trotz happy for Canadiens’ Radulov
Trotz was Alexander Radulov’s first coach in the NHL with the Nashville Predators and it was him who suspended the Russian forward after he missed curfew — along with former Canadien Andrei Kostitsyn — the night before a playoff game in 2012.
Radulov would spend the next four seasons playing in the KHL before signing a one-year deal with the Canadiens as a free agent last summer. Trotz also coached Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber when he was with the Predators.
“Obviously, I have a relationship with Shea and Rad,” Trotz said. “(Radulov) came down and tracked me down after the Montreal game (in Washington this season). We had a couple of laughs. He’s a terrific player. We spent a lot of time together.
“He’s in a really good place right now … I love where he is,” Trotz added. “He’s got a family and he’s a lot more mature than he was when we started out together. He’s a terrific player and you guys get to see him on a nightly basis.”
Trotz was part of Team Canada’s management team for the World Cup of Hockey, along with Marc Bergevin, and told the Canadiens GM this summer he had made a couple of good moves by getting Weber in exchange for P.K. Subban and signing Radulov.
“I said: ‘I’ll tell you what,'” Trotz recalled about his conversation with Bergevin. “‘You made some really good moves.’ Everybody was sort of wait and see and they’re wondering and they’re questioning. But I said they’re terrific moves and you’re seeing the benefits of those two players. They’re terrific guys and great players.”
(Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)