Despite letting one slip away Thursday night in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders, the Canadiens woke up Friday morning still in first place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-4-2 record.
It marks the best start through 17 games for a Canadiens team in 20 years.
The Canadiens got off to a 12-3-2 start in 1992-93, the last season they won the Stanley Cup.
Wrote The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs: “There’s a lightness in the step of Montrealers these days, no matter that we’re trudging through a winter that’s hung coats of snow on the Bell Centre courtyard statues of Morenz, Richard, Béliveau and Lafleur.
“Last season’s cellar-mired disaster is a surreal memory. The lockout is long-ago forgiven by fans, not that there was any chance in this town that it wouldn’t be.
“The standing of the Canadiens, compared to what it was last April 7 when the curtain mercifully fell, is literally turned upside down. From fifteenth to first, despite a five-game winning streak having ended Thursday.”
The New York Rangers visit the Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and then the Canadiens will play 11 of their next 15 game on the road, starting Monday in Ottawa.
The Canadiens practised Friday morning in Brossard, but Brandon Prust took a therapy day after dropping the gloves with 6-foot-8, 249-pounder Joe Finley in Thursday’s loss.
Brendan Gallagher looks like he will be ready to face the Rangers after suffering a concussion last Saturday and replaced Erik Cole on the first power-play unit at practice along with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.
The lines for practice were: Gallagher-Desharnais-Pacioretty; Eller-Galchenyuk-Cole; Gionta-Plekanec-Bourque; Armstrong-White-Moen.
The Hamilton Bulldogs are at the Bell Centre Friday night, taking on the Rochester Americans in a 7:30 p.m. start.
(Photo by Allen McInnis/The Gazette)