Christian Thomas will make his Canadiens debut Saturday when the Habs take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre (1 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
Michael Bournival is the latest Habs player to come down with the flu and won’t be in the lineup against the Lightning, with Thomas taking his spot. Brandon Prust missed Friday’s practice with the flu, but is expected to play.
Thomas, who was called up from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday, skated on a line with Rene Bourque and Lars Eller at Friday’s practice.
It will be a busy Super Bowl weekend for the Canadiens with a pair of games at the Bell Centre. On Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets will be the visitors (1 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
Thomas’s father, former NHLer Steve Thomas, is now an assistant coach with the Lightning.
“It would be awesome to play, especially against a team with my dad on the bench,” Thomas said after Friday’s practice. “I’ve worked hard in Hamilton and shown some good stuff. I think I deserve (the call-up).
“I’m just happy to be here,” added Thomas, who has five goals and nine assists in 23 games with the Bulldogs this season.
The Canadiens won’t have a morning skate Saturday.
Carey Price will start in goal against the Lightning, but coach Michel Therrien wouldn’t confirm on Friday who will start Sunday. Before the start of Saturday’s game, Price will receive the Molson Cup for January, based on three-star selections. Price was selected as the first star twice in January and was the third star three times to finish ahead of Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher in the Molson Cup standings. Plekanec and Gallagher each had one first-, one second- and one third-star selection.
“It’s a different crowd, an opportunity for young kids to see the Canadiens and the atmosphere there is always great for these afternoon games. I’m expecting the same thing,” Therrien told reporters in Brossard after Friday’s practice. “I have no problem playing at 1 o’clock on weekends. It’s a different feeling and it should be a lot of fun.”
Here’s how the forward lines and defence pairings looked at practice Friday:
Bournival – Plekanec – Gionta
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Gallagher
Bourque – Eller – Thomas
Parros – Moen – Briere
Subban – Gorges
Emelin – Markov
Murray – Beaulieu
Diaz – Bouillon
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)