The Canadiens held an optional morning skate in Tampa as they prepared to face the Lightning Wednesday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The Habs’ No. 1 line of Thomas Vanek, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais all skipped the morning skate, along with defenceman Francis Bouillon. All the other players were on the ice, including Brandon Prust, who will be in the lineup for Game 1. Prust missed the last 12 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He is expected to play on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher.
“He’s had two good practices with our team,” coach Michel Therrien told reporters in Tampa about Prust. ”He’s excited and we’re all excited about him being back in the lineup. He’s a leader, he’s a tough guy to play against, he’s got speed and, most importantly, he’s a gamer.”
Said Prust: ”Playoffs starting, so the heart’s pumping. This is a brand new season. Everything is stepped up a notch. You’re not really sure what happens, but something goes in the brain where it’s an all-out war.”
Therrien also confirmed that Bouillon and Michael Bournival will be in the lineup. It will be the 47th career playoff game for Bouillon, but the first for Bournival.
“He’ll be nervous, but nerves can be positive,” Therrien said about the 21-year-old rookie, who posted 7-7-14 totals in 60 regular-season games and was minus-6. “He’ll make an impact with his speed.”
It will also be the first career playoff game for Habs defenceman Alexei Emelin.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper confirmed that goalie Ben Bishop, who is sidelined with an elbow injury, won’t play in Game 1, but wouldn’t say who will start in his place. Cooper can choose between Anders Lindback, who was named the NHL’s player of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record last week, or Kristers Gudlevskis, the goalie who stood on his head for Latvia against Canada at the Olympics. Gudlevskis almost gave an entire country a heart attack when he stopped 55 of 57 shots for Latvia in a 2-1 loss to Canada in Sochi.
Carey Price will start in goal for the Canadiens with something to prove in the postseason. Price has a career 9-17 record in the playoffs with a 2.90 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
The scratches for the Habs in Game 1 are expected to be Travis Moen, Ryan White and George Parros up front and Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi on defence.
Game 2 of the Habs-Lightning series will be Friday night in Tampa (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).