Saturday is Hockey Day in Canada and what better way to celebrate than a game between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The Canadiens held an optional skate Saturday morning in Toronto with 16 players taking part, including Lars Eller, who missed Friday’s practice because of the flu.
“I will play tonight with Pleky and Gio,” Eller told reporters after practice about his linemates Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, who celebrates his 35th birthday Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter whether I play centre or on the wing, I just try my best to help Plekanec and Gionta,” added Eller, who will play left wing against the Leafs. “I’ve played with Plekanec in the past, not in long stretches, but it’s not something totally foreign to me. As a winger, there’s more forechecking involved. You get to use your size along the boards to set up your centreman and get pucks to the net.”
Coach Michel Therrien confirmed after practice that forward Joonas Nattinen, who was called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday, will be in the lineup and that Rene Bourque will be a healthy scratch. In 36 games this season, Bourque has six goals and one assist and is minus-4. The 32-year-old is in the fourth year of a six-year, $20-million contract that runs through the 2015-16 season.
Defencemen Raphael Diaz (flu) and Douglas Murray (lower-body injury) both won’t play against the Leafs. Nathan Beaulieu, who was called up from Hamilton on Friday, and Francis Bouillon will fill those spots.
Carey Price will start in goal for the Canadiens and Jonathan Bernier will start for the Leafs.
CBC will have a triple-header for Hockey Day in Canada, starting with the New York Rangers at Ottawa at 2 p.m., followed by Habs vs. Leafs, and wrapping up with Calgary at Vancouver at 10 p.m.