On Monday night, the Canadiens faced former teammate Daniel Brière and the Colorado Avalanche, leaving Denver with a 4-3 victory.
Brière, who was traded to Colorado during the off-season in exchange for P.A. Parenteau, scored a goal against his former teammates while logging 14:40 of ice time. In 18 games this season, Brière has 6-1-7 totals and is minus-3.
On Wednesday night, the Canadiens will face Thomas Vanek, another former teammate from last season, and the Wild in Minnesota. Vanek, who signed a three-year, $19.5-million free-agent contract with the Wild during the off-season, has two goals and 12 assists in 23 games this season while averaging 16:36 of ice time and is plus-2.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was pleased with his leadership group after Monday’s win in Colorado as his four assistant captains — Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov — combined for six points. Markov, Subban and Pacioretty all scored goals, while rookie Jiri Sekac was the other goal-scorer.
“That was a great performance (by our leaders),” Therrien told reporters in Denver after the game. “Pacioretty scored a big goal in the third period. We gave him good opportunities, but I liked the way he created his own chances with his intensity and his relentless puck pursuit.
“P.K. had a great game, too. He and Andrei Markov have a lot of responsibility,” Therrien added. “(Sergei) Gonchar and (Alexei) Emelin, too. Those four guys had a big job tonight and they responded really well.”
Wednesday’s game will be a homecoming for Canadiens defenceman Tom Gilbert, who grew up in Minnesota.
“It’s always fun to play here when family and friends can come watch,” Gilbert told reporters in Minnesota after practice on Tuesday. “I have my parents coming, my brother and my little nephew — who I haven’t seen in a while — which is always exciting. I think it’s his first live hockey game, which is really fun. And I have a bunch of buddies coming tomorrow, too.”
Gilbert played youth hockey with Zach Parise, who is now the leading scorer for the Wild.
“My dad coached us in baseball and his dad (former NHL star J.P. Parise) coached us in hockey,” Gilbert said.
If practice was any indication, Mike Weaver will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season and Bryan Allen will return to the lineup Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Canadiens prospect Michael McCarron on Tuesday received an invitation to Team USA’s final selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championship. In 17 games this season with the OHL’s London Knights, McCarron had 13-13-26 totals with 44 penalty minutes and a plus-10. McCarron was selected by the Canadiens in the first round (25th overall) at the 2013 NHL entry draft.
Zach Fucale, the Canadiens’ second-round pick (36th overall) in 2013, is expected to be the No. 1 goalie for Team Canada at the junior tournament. In 22 games this season with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, Fucale has a 12-8-2 record with a 3.35 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 2, 2014
Canadiens vs. Wild preview
Wednesday at Minnesota’s Xcel Center, 7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN Radio 690
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Canadiens opened their four-game road trip with a 4-3 win in Colorado Monday night and they’ll be facing a Minnesota team that is challenging for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Wild has a 6-3-1 record in its last 10 games and is 13-9-1 overall. This is the second and last meeting for these teams this season — the Canadiens were 4-1 winners at the Bell Centre on Nov. 8.
Best players step up: Canadiens defencemen Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban each had a goal and an assist against Colorado and Max Pacioretty scored his team-leading 12th goal to provide the winning margin. Carey Price made big saves down the stretch and might have had an easier time if Brandon Prust hadn’t scored on his own goal.
The other guys: Zach Parise leads the Wild in scoring with nine goals and nine assists for 18 points, while Repentigny native Jason Pominville has four goals and 15 points. Former Canadien Thomas Vanek, who was signed by Minnesota as a free agent for his goal-scoring ability, has only two goals but has 12 assists, while Nino Niederreiter is the Wild’s top sniper with 11 goals. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper has cooled off after starting the season with three shutouts, but Niklas Backstrom checks in with a 2.01 goals-against average.
No power here: It’s difficult to find a team with a worse power play than the Canadiens, but the Wild fits that description. Montreal went 1-for-2 in Colorado and improved to 24th in the NHL on the power play with a success rate of 14.2 per cent, while the Wild is 29th at 9.6 per cent. Minnesota does have the second-best penalty kill with an 88.7 per cent success rate, while the Canadiens are 10th at 84.1 per cent.
Facing off: The Canadiens have been dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 55.8 per cent of their draws to rank No. 1 in the league. And it’s not just Manny Malhotra, who has won 63.4 per cent of his draws to lead the NHL. Lars Eller ranks fourth at 58.3 per cent, David Desharnais is 17th at 55.3 per cent, and Tomas Plekanec is 41st at 50.8 per cent.
Road trip continues: After Wednesday’s game, the Canadiens head to Chicago, where they will face the Blackhawks Friday night, before the road trip wraps up Saturday night in Dallas against the Stars.