The Canadiens held an optional morning skate in Brossard ahead of Saturday night’s final regular-season game against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
Michael Blunden, who was called up from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday afternoon because of Lars Eller battling the flu, took part in the skate and will be in the lineup against the Rangers. Brandon Prust, still recovering from an upper-body injury, was also on the ice.
The Canadiens no longer control their destiny when it comes to securing home-ice advantage for their first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning, backed by goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis making his first NHL start, beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Friday night to move a point ahead of the Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division.
The Lightning plays its final regular-season game Sunday afternoon in Washington and can clinch home-ice advantage with a victory no matter what the Canadiens do Saturday night against the Rangers. The Lightning will be without forward Ryan Malone, who was stopped by a Tampa police officer early Saturday morning and charged with DUI and possession of cocaine. The Associated Press reported that according to a police report an officer found 1.3 grams of cocaine in one of Malone’s pockets. The AP added that Malone refused to take field sobriety tests, but a breath test given at the jail recorded blood alcohol levels of 0.112 and 0.116 per cent. Florida law considers a driver impaired at 0.08.
“We are aware of the situation concerning Ryan Malone this morning,” general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement Saturday. “Ryan will not travel with the team to Washington today, but beyond that we cannot comment further at this time.”
The Rangers, who have already clinched second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, are expected to rest some veterans against the Canadiens, including Martin St. Louis. Cam Talbot is expected to start in goal for the Rangers with Carey Price starting for the Canadiens.
Defenceman Josh Gorges told reporters on Friday that the Canadiens want to do what they can Saturday night to secure home-ice advantage.
“I think it’s something to strive for, but our focus should more be on the way we’re playing,” he said. “Make sure that coming into playoffs — whether we have home ice or not — we’re playing the right way. We’re playing at the top of our game. We fine tune the details and make sure there are no holes.”
The Canadiens announced Saturday morning that Bulldogs goalie Dustin Tokarski has been signed to a two-year contract extension taking him through the 2015-16 season. Tokarski has played three games with the Canadiens this season, posting a 2-0-0 record with one shutout, a 1.84 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. With the Bulldogs, Tokarski has a 20-15-3 record with one shutout, a 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage. The Canadiens acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 14, 2013 in exchange for goaltender Cedrick Desjardins.
(Photo by Peter McCabe/The Gazette)