The Canadiens hit the ice Monday morning in Brossard to begin preparations for their first-round playoff series against the Lightning, which will start Wednesday night in Tampa (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
Lars Eller, who missed the last three regular-season games while battling the flu, was back on the ice with his teammates and said he’s “100 per cent ready to come back.”
“It was good to get back out there today and feel the ice,” Eller told reporters after practice. “I’m sure that I’ll be fine for Wednesday. It was better getting sick there than a week later, but there’s never a good time to get sick.”.
The Canadiens used both ice surfaces at its Brossard practice facility, with the power-play unit working on one rink. The Canadiens went 0-for-23 on the power play during the last eight regular-season games and finished the season ranked 19th on the PP with a 17.2 per cent success rate. The Canadiens had the fourth-best penalty-killing unit during the regular season with a 85.1 per cent success rate.
“Tough to score 5-on-5 in the playoffs,” coach Michel Therrien told reporters after practice. “When you get a chance to get momentum on the PP, we’re going to make sure we do that.”
The first power-play unit at practice had Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek up front with Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban on the point. The second unit had Daniel Briere with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher (with Rene Bourque rotating in), and Alexei Emelin and Josh Gorges on the point.
Brandon Prust, who missed the last 12 games of the regular season with an upper body injury, was on the ice but is still listed as day-to-day and Therrien wouldn’t say if he’ll be ready for Game 1 in Tampa. Travis Moen, still recovering from a concussion, skated on his own before the team’s practice.
Defenceman Josh Gorges told reporters he’s not concerned about starting the playoffs on the road.
“It gives us an opportunity to just play a really simple, playoff-style road game,” Gorges said. “We don’t have to impress anybody or go out there and make cute plays and impress a crowd that’s going to be amped up and ready to go. We just have to go out and get a win, whatever that takes. One of the good things about starting on the road is we can just grind it out and do anything we can to get a win.”
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced Monday that the club has signed forward Jacob de la Rose to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound forward, who was selected by the Canadiens in the second round (34th overall) of the 2013 NHL entry draft, posted 7-6-13 totals this season with Leksand Idrottsforening in the Swedish Elite League.
Here’s a look at the first-round playoff schedule for Habs vs. Lightning:
Game 1: Wednesday, April 16 at Tampa, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, April 18 at Tampa, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, April 20 at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Tuesday, April 22 at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday April 24 at Tampa, 7 p.m.
Game 6 (if necessary): Sunday, April 27 at Montreal, TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 29 at Tampa, TBD.
(Gazette file photo/John Kenney)