(Photo: Dave Stubbs/The Gazette)
The Canadiens and Rangers returned to the ice on Saturday at Madison Square Garden after an off day as they prepared for Game 4 in their Eastern Conference final series.
There was a bit of intrigue at the start of the Canadiens practice with Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, video coach Jerry Dineen, and another team staff member watching from the stands –as well as general manager Glen Sather.
There’s a gentleman’s agreement that coaches aren’t allowed to attend opposing teams’ practices between games, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien explained.
“When we saw those assistant coaches there, they were not supposed to be there so we let them know,” he said.
Canadiens assistant coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault went to tell them and ‘they didn’t appear to understand,” said Therrien who then conveyed the message.
Michaël Bournival practised on a line with Daniel Brière and Dale Weise. And Thomas Vanek played on the line centred by Lars Eller with Rene Bourque.
Francis Bouillon played in a defensive pairing with Mike Weaver, leading to speculation that he might play Sunday. But Therrien was tight-lipped about his lineup.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said it’s unlikely Derek Stepan, who suffered a broken jaw when he was checked by Brandon Prust in Game 3, will play on Sunday. Prust has been suspended for two games for the hit.
“The hit itself wasn’t really a topic in the (disciplinary) hearing, it was all about the timing of it,” Prust told reporters after the Canadiens practice.
“I kept my skates on the ice, my shoulder into his chest, I didn’t leave my feet, so it’s just all about the timing. It’s fractions of a second. The NHL deems a hit late around .6 seconds and I’m about .8 seconds. You know, that’s on me. It’s late. But for me my focus was on trying to make a good clean body check and not leave my feet, my elbows tucked. Everything about the actual contact is clean it’s just–it’s late.”
“My mindset is not trying to injury anybody and (Stepan) is a friend of mine,” said Prust, who spent two and a half seasons with the Rangers.
Prust said he had sent a text message to Stepan.
“I told him exactly what I told you guys. It’s my first shift, I’m just trying to create some body contact. And I feel awful. You never want to hurt anybody. And I hope he recovers well.”
You can hear more of what Prust had to say here:
Therrien said he expected forward Derick Brassard, who has missed two games with an injury, will be back in the Rangers’ lineup.
The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
“I still think that we have a lot more to give,” Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban said.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey game yet in this series. I think we’ve done some good things. But I still think there’s another level for us to get to and we’ve got to get to it,” Subban said.
You can listen to Therrien’s post-practice press conference here:
You can hear more of what Subban had to say here:
You can listen to Daniel Brière here:
(Video: Brenda Branswell)