The Canadiens held their morning skate at 11:30 a.m. at Madison Square Garden as they prepared for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers Thursday night (8 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
P.K. Subban was the first player on the ice for the Habs and goaltending coach Stephane Waite took a few shots at goalie Dustin Tokarski to warm him up. Tokarski will get his second straight start in place of the injured Carey Price with the Canadiens trailing the series 2-0. There were no line drills during the skate and the only player who didn’t take part was Brandon Prust.
After the skate, coach Michel Therrien was asked if Prust would be available to play in Game 3.
“Yeah, yeah, it was an optional practice this morning,” Therrien said.
When asked if there would be any lineup changes for Game 3, the coach said: “You’ll see tonight. Might be, though”
Therrien was also asked about the pressure Tokarski has been facing since getting the call to replace Price, who made the trip to New York with the team and is wearing a brace on his right knee. The Canadiens have said Price will not play again in this series after being injured in Game 1.
“I thought he handled it very well,” Therrien said about Tokarski. “We understand that with the loss of Carey Price we put the young kid in a tough spot. But you look at his background, and he’s a winner, and that was the No. 1 priority for us. I thought he handled really well for the first game, especially at the Bell Centre. It’s a different pressure when you’re on the road. He played really well on the road for us this year every time we asked him to play. But the young man did a great job.”
Minor-league goalie Mike Condon is also with the Canadiens in New York, along with backup Peter Budaj, in case of an emergency.
Therrien was asked if he would use a different strategy on the road with a rookie goaltender in net.
“One thing we know, we know the Rangers are going to play – right now they’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Therrien said. “Honestly, this is the best team that we’ve played in the playoffs so far. So we all understand the challenge that we’re facing tonight. Yes, we’ve got a young guy in the goalie position, but for us we’ve got to make sure we play the way we play, to play the right way, to play the way with confidence. We can’t start thinking about changing things because of the goalie. We have to make sure we play the right way. We all know if we play the way (we) play, we give our team a chance to win, and this is what we want to do tonight.”
You can listen to audio of Therrien’s morning press conference by clicking here. (Interview starts nine seconds into tape.)
The Rangers skated before the Canadiens and New York coach Alain Vigneault met with the media afterwards.
When asked to describe the mood of his team, Vigneault said: “Well, we’re a confident group (and) our total attention is on tonight’s game and what we need to do to have success. Since we’ve had a longer stretch here in between Game 2 and Game 3 tonight, we’ve been able to go through a couple of areas that we feel we must be better tonight, and we’ve gone through areas that we need to continue to do well. We know that they’re going to be ready. They’re going to want to play a good game, and we’re definitely going to be ready also.”
Vigneault was also asked about the status of centre Derick Brassard, who suffered a suspected shoulder injury early in Game 1 when he was hit by Canadiens defenceman Mike Weaver and didn’t play in Game 2.
“Well, he’s still day-to-day,” Vigneault said, “and he’s been a big part of our offensive success, so we’re a better team when he’s in our lineup.”
Vigneault added that Benoit Pouliot, who sat out practice Wednesday, will be ready for Game 3.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Video by The Gazette’s Brenda Branswell)