The Canadiens held an optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden before facing elimination for the second straight game in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers Thursday night (8 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The only players who didn’t take part in the skate were Alexei Emelin and Dale Weise.
Coach Michel Therrien told reporters after the skate that Emelin’s status would be a game-time decision, but that Weise definitely won’t be in the lineup.
Emelin missed Game 5 with an undisclosed injury, while Weise was knocked woozy from a third-period hit by the Rangers’ John Moore, who was suspended for two games for the illegal hit to the head. Weise went to the Canadiens’ locker room for a brief period after the hit, but returned to finish the game. There have been reports he suffered a concussion.
“Right now he has a body injury,” Therrien told reporters in New York Thursday morning about Weise.
When asked if there was any regret about letting Weise return to play in Game 5, Therrien responded: “You’re presuming it’s a head injury.”
The coach then added: “You’re not correct.”
Therrien was then asked what happened to make Weise a scratch for Game 6 after returning to play in Game 5.
“Well, after the hit he went to meet the doctors, saw the doctors,” the coach said. “He was feeling fine about finishing the game. For us, what is really important is player safety. This is important for us. It’s been like that all season long. It’s not going to change.
“For a player not able to play the next game, this is something that we could see on a regular basis. You can see (Derek) Stepan finished a game with a broken jaw, get an operation the next day, miss Game 4, and came back after his operation. So those are the things that you see at this time of the year. But right now (Weise has) got a body injury. He won’t be able to play tonight.”
When asked what criteria a player has to meet to get back on the ice, even if he says he’s fine, Therrien responded: “Those are the things that I don’t know. As a coach, I never get a concussion. But one thing I trust, we trust our medical staff. We trust our doctor. So when they’re saying that he’s good to go, he’s good to go. But right now he’s having a body injury.”
Brandon Prust, who will return from a two-game suspension for a late hit that broke Stepan’s jaw in Game 3, took Weise’s spot on a line with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque during the morning skate.
“He’s going to be hungry to play,” Therrien said about Prust. “He’s going to go hard. He’s excited about playing tonight. We’re glad he’s back in our lineup.”
Goalie Carey Price went on the ice at the end of the morning skate in full equipment for the third straight day, working out by himself before taking a few shots from his teammates.
New York coach Alain Vigneault spoke with the media after the Rangers’ morning skate and was asked about the two-game suspension for Moore.
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. ” So I don’t have any reaction.”
Moore’s spot in the Rangers’ lineup is expected to be filled by former Canadien Raphael Diaz.
“We have Diaz or (Justin) Falk that are available to us tonight,” Vigneault said. “Diaz has played a little bit of left side. When he has, he has been good. So we’ll make that decision come tonight.”
Vigneault added that he’s not worried about goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled in Game 5.
“I expect him to play like he always does,” Vigneault said. “I mean, he’s a great goaltender. He strives when the pressure is on. He knows that tonight’s a big game.
“I heard (goalie coach) Benoit Allaire say when we walked in ‘tonight’s a big game’. I think he picked up on that and we’ll be fine,” Vigneault added with a laugh.
Vigneault was asked about Game 6 being the biggest game in 20 years at Madison Square Garden, since the last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
“You pretty much said it,” the coach said. “Should be exciting for everyone, fans, players, coaches, everybody. It’s going to be a great game. Two teams that are competing real hard, battling for every inch on the ice. It should be a lot of fun.”
If the Canadiens win Game 6, Game 7 will be Saturday night at the Bell Centre (8 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
(Gazette file photo/Peter McCabe)
Dave Stubbs video from Thursday morning skate:
Dustin Tokarski drills with goaltending coach Stéphane Waite:
Video from Wednesday in Brossard by The Gazette’s Peter McCabe:
Stubbs photos from Thursday morning skate at Madison Square Garden:
Dustin Tokarski alone with his thoughts in the dressing room.
Alex Galchenyuk sprints into a drill.
Carey Price heads out to MSG ice to practice after the morning skate.
Alex Galchenyuk pauses during the skate while assistant equipment manager Pat Langlois (left) and assistant athletic therapist Nick Addey-Jibb give the photographer the evil eye. Well, not really…
Former Canadiens defenceman Raphael Diaz is expected to be in the Rangers’ lineup Thursday.