The Penguins will be looking to sweep their season series against the Canadiens when the teams meet Wednesday night in Pittsburgh (7 p.m., TSN, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The Penguins beat the Canadiens 7-6 in overtime on March 2 at the Bell Centre and 1-0 in Pittsburgh on March 26.
The Canadiens – coming off back-to-back losses to Toronto and Philadelphia – risk losing home-ice advantage in the playoffs if they can’t turn things around in their last six regular-season games. Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Canadiens (26-11-5) had a one-point lead on the Boston Bruins (26-11-4) atop the Northeast Division standings and were four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (24-14-5).
Peter Budaj will start in goal for the Canadiens against the Penguins after Carey Price was pulled in each of the last two games. Michael Ryder is sidelined with an upper-body injury and didn’t make the trip to Pittsburgh. He’s listed as day-to-day. Brandon Prust will return to the lineup after sitting out Monday’s game to rest his ailing shoulder.
Coach Michel Therrien said after Wednesday’s morning skate in Pittsburgh that defenceman Nathan Beaulieu won’t play against the Penguins, replaced by Yannick Weber, who has dressed for only two games this season and hasn’t played since March 7. Therrien added that it would be a game-time decision on whether Michael Blunden or Gabriel Dumont will take Ryan White’s spot in the lineup and added that defenceman Raphael Diaz might be ready to return on Saturday when the Washington Capitals visit the Bell Centre. Diaz has been sidelined since Feb. 25 with a concussion.
White faced an NHL disciplinary hearing on Wednesday in New York for an illegal check to the head of Flyers defenceman Kent Huskins and has been suspended for five games. Under the terms of the CBA, and based on his average annual salary, White will forfeit $18,581.10. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Rene Bourque was on a line with Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec for several drills during Wednesday’s morning skate.
Therrien said on Tuesday that home ice “is something we want to have and we’re in position to have.”
The coach added: ”We just have to refocus. We caused a lot of surprise this year. We played with desperation this season, but we don’t have that same desperation since we made the playoffs. We have to bring it back as soon as we can. We didn’t respond (Monday) night, but we have to look ahead. Pittsburgh is a new challenge. They’re the best team in the East.”
The Penguins, who have won 19 of their last 21 games, will be without Sidney Crosby and James Neal, who are still recovering from injuries. During a pregame ceremony, Mark Recchi and Dr. Charles (Chip) Burke will be named to the Penguins’ All-Time Team. During three different stints in Pittsburgh, Recchi – who also played for the Canadiens – had 154 goals and 385 points in 389 games with the Penguins.
April 16 marked the 60th anniversary of the Canadiens’ 1953 Stanley Cup victory. Check out the video below courtesy of HIO fan Francis Bouchard of Hearst, Ont.
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)