In this week’s edition of Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, Joel Armia has been granted a leave of absence from the team for family reasons, interim head coach Martin St. Louis expects to be back behind the bench next season, Michael Pezzetta has been suspended for two games, the Laval Rocket are on the verge of clinching a berth in the American Hockey League (AHL) playoffs, and Nick Suzuki would accept an invitation from Hockey Canada to play in the upcoming IIHF World Championship.
Plus, Carey Price speaks about his return and an opportunity lost in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
Price Happy With His Progress
Although Price has lost the first two starts of his comeback and his teammates have yet to score a goal during his six periods in net, he is pleased with how his rehabbed knee has responded to game action and wants to improve his conditioning.
He’s also had the chance to do some self-reflection in light of the trying times he’s faced in recent months. He wants to finish his career playing at an acceptable level and leave the game playing well and not being a burden.
Price also revisited coming so close to winning a Stanley Cup last year, how he’s still getting over the loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and how it still feels like an opportunity lost.
Most importantly, it’s nice to see Price rejuvenated and back in his element again. His willingness to open up more than in the past has been a welcome change and hopefully, the Habs can get him a win before the season wraps up.
Armia Returns Home to Finland
The Canadiens announced on Tuesday that Armia has returned home to Finland to tend to a family matter. It is unknown if he will play again this season.
He joins Jake Allen, Justin Barron, and Jonathan Drouin on the sidelines. All three players are out for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign. Meanwhile, Paul Byron, who has had a trying year recovering from offseason hip surgery, left Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury.
On Monday, Michael Pezzetta was suspended for two games for an illegal check to the head of T.J. Oshie during Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals. The growing list of absentees is good news for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard who earned a well-deserved call-up to the Habs and will be in the lineup Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s having a great season with the Rocket, putting up 51 points in 64 games to lead the team in scoring.
Laval Inching Closer to Playoff Berth
Speaking of the Rocket, they are on the verge of booking a place in the AHL playoffs for the first time in team history. With five games left on their regular season schedule, the magic number to clinch is five.
They currently sit second in the North Division and will face their division rivals, the Toronto Marlies and Syracuse Crunch, to complete the 2021-22 calendar. They received valuable reinforcements for the stretch run on Wednesday with Corey Schueneman being sent down by the Canadiens.
Considering the roster challenges faced by both Laval and Montreal this season, first-year head coach Jean-François Houle deserves a lot of credit for the Rocket’s place in the standings. Not to mention his role in the impressive progress of several Canadiens prospects including Harvey-Pinard, Jesse Ylönen, Ryan Poehling, and Schueneman who has shown that he can be a reliable NHL defenceman.
St. Louis Expects to Be Back
In an interview with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on the “32 Thoughts Podcasts”, St. Louis discussed a wide range of interesting topics including the resurgence of Cole Caufield and learning the ropes as a rookie NHL bench boss.
Arguably the subject of most interest to Habs fans right now is whether he will still be the head coach in Montreal next season and beyond. St. Louis reiterated that he wants to return.
“That’s definitely my intention,” St-Louis said. “I love hockey, I love helping people, I love being on a team. It’s fun, it’s really fun.”
Suzuki Would Consider Team Canada Invite
While Price indicated that it is unlikely he will play in the World Championship in Finland next month given everything he’s gone through this season, Suzuki said he would certainly consider accepting an invitation to represent Canada if he was asked, but hasn’t heard anything yet from Hockey Canada.
Suzuki is the only Canadiens player to appear in every game this year. He leads the team in scoring with 57 points and reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career on Saturday against the Capitals.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
With a handful of games left and the Habs sitting 31st in the standings, they are all but guaranteed a top 5 pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. The draft lottery will be held on May 10. The goal from now until next week will be to get the young players more valuable playing time with the big club to help make decisions for next season and the future.
Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton will be thinking about that future and finding Montreal’s next top prospect when they travel to Germany on Friday to attend the IIHF World U18 Championship.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as 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.