In this week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, Jeff Petry returns to practice, Max Pacioretty speaks about playing his former team in the Stanley Cup Semifinals and Kirk Muller has been named associate coach of the Calgary Flames.
Plus, the Habs have requested increased capacity at the Bell Centre for their upcoming games, Montreal’s new ECHL affiliate in Trois-Rivières has found a team name and a head coach, the Laval Rocket have a 2021-22 schedule and two new players. Meanwhile, Cole Caufield and Sean Farrell pick up more awards.
Petry Practices With Modified Glove
The Canadiens arrived in Vegas on Saturday in advance of Game 1 against the Golden Knights tonight at T-Mobile Arena. The team’s practice on Sunday was the first for Petry since suffering a hand injury in Game 3 against the Winnipeg Jets.
The defenseman was sporting a modified glove as a form of protection. Jake Evans and Jon Merrill also travelled to Vegas to continue to their injury rehab. Both have resumed skating. Head coach Dominique Ducharme doesn’t expect any of the three players to be available for Game 1, but perhaps Petry’s return to practice indicates there’s still a chance he might suit up. It goes without saying, but the Habs sure could use him.
Ducharme also mentioned that even though he’s not in Vegas due to a personal leave of absence, Jonathan Drouin has been in touch with his teammates throughout their playoff run. Between Drouin and a surprise visit from Hall of Famer Bob Gainey during a team meeting last week, the Canadiens aren’t lacking inspiration as they prep for their first appearance in the final four since 2014.
Pacioretty Ready to Face Former Team
Pacioretty is downplaying his emotions as he prepares to play the team he spent ten seasons with, including three as captain.
“It’s no different if you’re playing the first team in the League, a team you played for in the past. They’re all the same in the playoffs, and you have to approach them all the same way,” Pacioretty said.
The 32-year-old scored 448 points (226 goals, 222 assists) in 626 games with the Canadiens. He was traded to the Golden Knights in 2018 for forwards Nick Suzuki and Tomas Tatar as well as a second-round draft pick.
Vegas also has four Quebec-born players who will be facing their hometown team: Marc-André Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault, William Carrier and Nicolas Roy.
This series will have no shortage of storylines.
Muller Joins Calgary’s Coaching Staff
Muller will be joining Darryl Sutter behind the Flames bench as the team’s new associate coach, just four months after he was let go from the same position by the Canadiens.
In addition to winning the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1993, Muller had two coaching stints in Montreal. He was an assistant coach for five seasons from 2006-07 until 2010-11 and returned as an associate coach alongside Claude Julien from 2016-17 until this year.
More Fans at the Bell Centre?
At the request of the Canadiens, Quebec health officials are analyzing the possibility of welcoming more fans to the Bell Centre for the remainder of the postseason.
Montreal has been allowed to admit 2,500 fans since Game 6 of their opening-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs which is the equivalent to approximately 12% of the building’s capacity. By comparison, the Golden Knights are permitted to operate at full capacity and had 18,149 fans for their series-clinching win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Quebec Premier François Legault is pushing to have more fans in attendance but says the request will have to be weighed against fairness for other events and public health concerns.
Introducing the Trois-Rivières Lions
The Habs’ new ECHL affiliate in Trois-Rivières will be known as the Lions and they knocked the team logo out of the park. The name Lions signals a rebirth of sorts and a glimpse into the past as it references the only professional hockey team to play in the city during the late 1950s.
According to Le Nouvelliste, the team is also expected to name Éric Bélanger as head coach for their inaugural season in 2021-22 in the coming days. Bélanger played more than 800 games in the NHL and put up 358 points in his career.
The Latest from Laval
The American Hockey League announced that the Rocket will play 72 games during the 2021-22 season in the North Division with the first contest set for October 15.
Laval also signed two Quebec-born players. Justin Ducharme, who put up 29 points in 28 games with Val-d’Or in the QMJHL this season, inked a one-year, two-way AHL contract. Meanwhile, Gabriel Bourque was signed to a one-year AHL deal. Bourque has appeared in 413 NHL games, including 52 last year with the Winnipeg Jets. He’s a former fifth-round pick of the Nashville Predators.
More Hardware for Caufield and Farrell
The awards just keep coming for Caufield as he was recently named the Jim Johannson College Player of the Year by USA Hockey. The 20-year-old has put up four points in nine playoff games with the Habs.
Farrell was named the 2021 USHL Player of the Year after becoming just the second player in league history to eclipse the 100-point mark in a single season. He registered at least a point in 24 consecutive games and helped the Chicago Steel win the 2021 Clark Cup title.
Farrell, a fourth-round pick by the Habs in the 2020 NHL Draft, is headed to Harvard University for next season.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
Can the underdog Habs continue their improbable postseason run against the mighty Golden Knights who finished 23 points ahead of them in the standings? As general manager Marc Bergevin loves to say, expect the unexpected. Regardless, it sure is fun that the Canadiens are still playing meaningful hockey in mid-June.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.