Canadiens Notebook: Tomas Plekanec Out Long Term With A Back Injury

Tomas Plekanec received a silver stick before Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues at the Bell Centre, honouring him playing in 1,000 NHL regular-season games. He played in his 1,001st that night, but it will be a while now before the 35-year-old centre plays in game No. 1,002.

The Canadiens announced Friday that Plekanec has been placed on the injured-reserve list with lower-back injury and he could be out for a while. He did not travel to Ottawa with the team on Friday afternoon and obviously won’t be in the lineup Saturday night against the Senators (7 p.m., CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

“Last game, at some point during the game he felt some back pains,” coach Claude Julien said after the Canadiens practised Friday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “Yesterday was a therapy day for him and then he ended up getting an MRI. So we were told this morning he’s going to be more than likely at least a couple of weeks before he can get better and from there we’ll see. It will be day-by-day.”

Plekanec was a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season before playing in the last three, scoring a goal in game No. 1,000, which the Canadiens won 7-3 over the Detroit Red Wings.

“I thought he’s played well in the games he’s come in,” Julien said. “I know it’s not the first time he’s had back issues. Most hockey players do.”

Deslauriers ready to return

Nicolas Deslauriers has been given the green light to play after recovering from a facial fracture suffered during a pre-season fight with the New Jersey Devils’ Brandon Baddock.

Deslauriers, still wearing a full cage, skated at left wing on the fourth line at practice Friday with Andrew Shaw at centre and Matthew Peca on right wing.

The lines

Here’s how all the lines and defence pairings looked at practice Friday:

Tatar – Danault – Gallagher

Drouin – Domi – Lehkonen

Byron – Kotkaniemi – Armia

Deslauriers – Shaw – Peca

Hudon, Scherbak

Alzner – Petry

Reilly – Juulsen

Ouellet – Benn

Mete

Nicolas Deslauriers leads team stretch at end of #Habs practice in Brossard #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/m1tai3eO2o

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 19, 2018

Hudon a healthy scratch?

Judging from the lines at practice Friday it looks like forwards Charles Hudon and Nikita Scherbak will be scratches Saturday night in Ottawa along with defenceman Victor Mete. But Julien wouldn’t confirm that after practice.

“I think that might be a little premeditated because I haven’t made my lineup changes yet,” the coach said. “There’s so many things that can happen. As you know, there’s been a lot of flu bugs going around, so I’m very careful giving guys opportunities to play in different places. Instead of having five lines today, I made four. So it’s a matter of making that final decision tomorrow during the day.”

Julien added it was the same thing for Mete.

“We have to dress six (defencemen) and we’ll make that decision tomorrow,” the coach said.

Mete missed Wednesday’s game against the Blues with a minor hand injury. Hudon has played in the first six games this season, posting 2-1-3 totals, while Scherbak has been a healthy scratch for every game so far.

The Canadiens cancelled their morning skate Saturday in Ottawa with Julien scheduled to meet with the media at 4:30 p.m. at the Canadian Tire Centre.

On a gorgeous autumn morning like this I'm so thankful to live only a 20-minute walk from #Habs practice rink in Brossard. What a beautiful way to start the day #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/Eow6ebmiRR

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 19, 2018

Price expected to start

You can expect to see Carey Price in goal against the Senators.

“If everything goes well, if Carey is feeling good, you’re likely going to see Carey,” Julien said. “But I haven’t confirmed with him yet.”

Price stopped 23 of 25 shots in Wednesday night’s victory over the Blues, but missed the previous two games with the flu. He has a 2-1-1 record this season with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Price, who has a career regular-season record of 288-202-63, needs one more win to tie Patrick Roy for No. 2 on the Canadiens’ all-time list for goalies, trailing only Jacques Plante’s 314.

Public skating on second rink this morning at Bell Sports Complex in Brossard while #Habs practise on main rink. Lots of open ice #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/ip6I0cLzXn

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 19, 2018

Kotkaniemi sharing condo with mother

The Canadiens’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi has moved out of the hotel near the Canadiens’ practice rink in Brossard that he had been calling home since rookie camp and the 18-year-old is now living in one of the Tour des Canadiens condos beside the Bell Centre with his mother, Kati, who has joined him from Finland.

“Everything is great,” Kotkaniemi said after practice Friday. “It’s fun that she’s here. She’s helping me every day. It’s fun to go home every day when she’s there.”

Kotkaniemi’s father, Mikael, has remained back home, where he is head coach of the Assat Pori team his son played with last season in the Finnish Elite League.

“I haven’t talked with him in like a week,” Kotkaniemi said. “He’s had so many games. Maybe on the weekend I’ll talk with him.”

Kotkaniemi has picked up two assists in his first six NHL games, but is still looking for his first goal. He is plus-2 while averaging 14:10 of ice time and winning 43.4 per cent of his faceoffs. If Kotkaniemi plays 10 games with the Canadiens the first year of his NHL entry-level contract will automatically kick in.

“I don’t think about that at all,” the teenager said. “I’m just going day by day.”

When asked this week if Kotkaniemi might spend the entire season with the Canadiens, Julien said: “He’s here. Until we decide to say: ‘Hey, we’re not keeping you,’ he’s here. Right now, I think our goal is to keep him here.”

From cheering him on at the Bell Centre to cooking his favorite dishes, Kati Kotkaniemi has been helping @taikinajalka adapt to life in Montreal.

READ -> https://t.co/eXa4qbZAQL ❤️#GoHabsGo

— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) October 19, 2018

Petry is The Man on blue line

Jeff Petry will never be a Man Mountain, but he has been The Man on the Canadiens’ blue line with No. 1 defenceman Shea Weber sidelined until around mid-December following off-season knee surgery.

Petry has been the Canadiens’ No. 1 defenceman since Weber — who was called “Man Mountain” by Team Canada coach Mike Babcock during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey — was sidelined with a foot injury that required surgery following the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game last Dec. 16 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.

Petry finished last season with 12-30-42 totals and was minus-30 while averaging 23:30 of ice time. The only Canadiens player with a worse plus/minus was Alex Galchenyuk, who finished minus-31. This season, Petry is even in plus/minus after six games and has 0-5-5 totals while averaging a team-high 23:08 of ice time.

“Last year, things weren’t going well and so that adds pressure to a guy and it was his first time kind of being in that position,” Julien said about Petry. “I think this year, right from the get-go, he’s handled it well. And there’s no doubt it helps when the team is winning vs. going through some tough times. But he’s handled it well.

“I think there’s a lot of areas where he’s gotten better, too,” the coach added. “He puts so much pressure on himself, at times he’ll get rattled and really lose focus a little bit. Where this year, he’s a lot more composed and bounces back quicker. And that’s what it does with the experience of having been that player for almost a year now.”

Coach Claude Julien gives instructions at #Habs practice #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/nIhzgUeFKJ

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 19, 2018

Claude the comedian

One of the very few impressive things about the Canadiens last season was the way Julien handled himself with the media during some very trying times and while being asked some tough questions.

He’s a good man.

He’s also a funny man and with the Canadiens off to an impressive 4-1-1 he has been able to show it more often this season. After practice Friday, Julian was asked what kind of impact new assistant coach Luke Richardson has had on the defence corps.

“None whatsoever,” Julien said with a big smile. “When they start having a hard time it will be his Ds, but when they’re playing well they’re mine.

“No, he’s been good,” Julien then added after laughing. “He’s been calm with them. He’s been calm … he’s got a good approach with them and the guys enjoy working with him. His personality is perfect for the group that we have right now.”

Coach Claude Julien meeting with media outside #Habs locker room following practice this morning in Brossard #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/dp8RhO68qM

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 19, 2018

Where the Canadiens stand

The Canadiens have earned nine out of a possible 12 points with their 4-1-1 start to the year. Last season, it took them 12 games to accumulate nine points in the standings (4-7-1) en route to finishing 28th overall in the NHL.

Tomas Tatar leads the Canadiens in scoring with 3-5-8 totals, followed by Brendan Gallagher (4-1-5), Paul Byron (3-2-5), Max Domi (1-4-5) and Petry (0-5-5).

Through Thursday’s games, the Canadiens ranked 14th in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.33 goals per game, and were eighth in defence, allowing an average of 2.50. They ranked 23rd on the power play (15.4 per cent) and 24th in penalty-killing (72.2). The Canadiens are the worst team in the league on faceoffs, winning only 42.7 per cent.

Montreal’s Jonathan Drouin at a recent commercial shoot for @ProvigoQc #ProvigoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/HeBj80Rc6h

— Allan Walsh (@walsha) October 19, 2018

Where the Senators stand

The leading scorers for the Senators (3-2-1) are Chris Tierney and Thomas Chabot, both with 2-6-8 totals. They are followed by Maxime Lajoie (4-3-7), Brady Tkachuk (3-3-6) and Matt Duchene (0-6-6).

The Senators got some bad news this week when they learned Tkachuk will be out for about a month after tearing a ligament in his leg. The Senators selected Tkachuk with the No. 4 overall pick at this year’s NHL Draft, one spot after the Canadiens took Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who has 0-2-2 totals and is still looking for his first NHL goal.

Through Thursday’s games, the Senators were tied for second in the NHL in offence with the Washington Capitals, both averaging 4.00 goals per game. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs were better at 4.13. The Senators ranked 26th in defence, allowing an average of 3.67 goals per game, seventh on the power play (27.8 per cent), 16th in penalty-killing (78.3 per cent) and 10th in faceoffs (52.0 per cent.

Assistant coaches Dominique Ducharme and Kirk Muller talk with forwards at #Habs practice while head coach Claude Julien listens in #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/LvhKKwObIu

— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) October 19, 2018

What’s next?

The Canadiens headed to Ottawa after Friday’s practice in Brossard and will play the Senators Saturday night (7 p.m., CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio). The Canadiens will enjoy a day off on Sunday.

Next week, the Canadiens will play the Calgary Flames at home on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) before hitting the road for games in Buffalo on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and Boston on Saturday (7 p.m., CITY, SN360, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

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