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Sports: Game Day Notebook: GM's positive COVID test is more bad news for Habs

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 8

  What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 8 Here's CBC Ottawa's latest roundup of key updates during the coronavirus pandemic.Here's everything you need to know about travelling to the U.S. — and returning home.

Sam Montembeault will start in goal for the Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Nashville Predators. He has an 0-3-1 record with a 3.71 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage. © Provided by The Gazette Sam Montembeault will start in goal for the Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Nashville Predators. He has an 0-3-1 record with a 3.71 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage.

Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme spoke with Marc Bergevin on Saturday morning and said the team’s GM was “feeling pretty good” a day after testing positive for COVID-19.

Ducharme wasn’t on the ice for his team’s optional morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard but the assistant coaches who were on the ice were back to wearing masks.

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 10

  What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 10 Here's CBC Ottawa's latest roundup of key updates during the coronavirus pandemic.The Ottawa Senators have placed a sixth player in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol, announcing Wednesday that defenceman Josh Brown has been added to the list. He played against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

“I didn’t know our coaches were wearing masks,” Ducharme said when the masks were mentioned to him. “We’re going back to that? I didn’t know.”

For the next 10 days, the Canadiens players and staff will be tested daily for COVID-19.

“It’s too bad but, again, it can happen,” Ducharme said about Bergevin testing positive. “For the next 10 days we’re going to be in a tighter environment getting tested every day and so on. So we’re going back into the bubble we were in last year, I guess.”

Ducharme was in quarantine for 14 days during the playoffs last season after testing positive for COVID-19 with assistant coach Luke Richardson taking charge of the bench during his absence.

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  What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 16 Here's CBC Ottawa's latest roundup of key updates during the coronavirus pandemic.Ontario reported 552 new cases of the illness Monday, an increase of approximately 15 per cent over the same time last week, while Ottawa's new daily cases have been fluctuating, but not showing a dramatic surge.

Does Ducharme have any advice for Bergevin while he recovers from COVID-19?

“Drink water,” the coach said. “Everybody’s different, I guess. I talked to him just a few minutes ago, he was feeling pretty good. So hopefully it stays like that.”

Bergevin’s positive test is the latest bad news in a season full of bad news for the Canadiens.

“You just hope he’s doing well and it’s not affecting him,” the Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin said about the GM. “But right now it is what it is. You can’t really control what’s going on. You got to play hockey. It’s part of the year, I think every team’s going to deal with it — at some point you’re going to have someone with COVID, like it or not. It’s just something we have to deal with right now and I think the team is doing a good job of it.”

Habs going with seven defencemen

Ducharme said he will use 11 forwards and seven defencemen for Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Defenceman Chris Wideman will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for Thursday night’s 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, while forward Michael Pezzetta will be a healthy scratch after playing in the last nine games following his call-up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

Ducharme said the new format to his lineup will allow him to use different combinations with his forward lines and defence pairings, while Wideman can also be used on the power play.

“Unless there’s one guy up front that has an injury, then at one point you can use a defenceman up front, but that’s not the plan,” Ducharme said. “I think we can alternate guys depending who’s sharp and use those guys a little bit more.”

Sam Montembeault will start in goal for the Canadiens. He has an 0-3-1 record with a 3.71 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage. Cayden Primeau started the last two games after being called up from Laval and had an 0-2-0 record with a 4.82 GAA and a .877 save percentage.

About Last Night: Habs win 6-3 with front office in flux

  About Last Night: Habs win 6-3 with front office in flux It was a busy night both on and off the ice for the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. While Jake Allen made 47 saves in a 6-3 win for his club over the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, the Habs announced assistant general manager Scott Mellanby had resigned from his post. The Canadiens may not have planned to make such an announcement during the middle of a game, but they were given little choice: rumours about the Canadiens talking to former New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton were making the rounds, signalling management changes are afoot. Here’s what the insiders were saying on Twitter: Very intriguing situation in Montreal.

Ducharme said that Carey Price, who left the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program last week after spending 30 days there dealing with substance-use issues, isn’t expected to be ready to start practising with his teammates again in the next week.

“Now he’s back, he’s in a good place, I’ve always told our team and our players that your family, your health comes first,” Bergevin told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic on Friday. “We’ll never rush Carey back. He’ll tell us when he’s ready. Regardless of what happens, I wouldn’t sleep good at night knowing that I forced Carey to play when he’s not ready.’’

The Canadiens have a 4-13-2 record this season, are 3-6-1 at home and are winless in their last four games (0-3-1) while being outscored 17-6.

Predators coming off a loss

The Predators have a 9-6-1 record, are 3-1-0 in their last four games and are coming off a 3-0 loss to the Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday. They have a 5-3-1 record on the road.

The Predators were supposed to play in Ottawa on Thursday night, but that game was postponed after several Senators players tested positive for COVID-19.

“They compete,” Ducharme said about the Predators. “They play a hard game. They’re skating well on defence. They play a simple game, but a good compete level. We’re aware of that and we got to bring our game.”

Why Marc Bergevin Went From Cup Finalist to Fired in Six Months

  Why Marc Bergevin Went From Cup Finalist to Fired in Six Months What decision(s) punched Bergevin's ticket out of Montreal before he could finish the last year of his contract as GM? © Provided by Hockey News on Sports Illustrated Marc Bergevin (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports) On June 27, 2021, Marc Bergevin greeted reporters at Stanley Cup Media Day, taking questions on his Montreal Canadiens’ miraculous, upset-laden post-season, expressing how grateful he was to see veterans Carey Price and Shea Weber reach their first final. Six months and one day later, Bergevin was fired as Habs GM.

Matt Duchene leads the Predators in scoring with 9-7-16 totals, followed by Roman Josi (6-10-16), Mikael Granlund (3-13-16) and Ryan Johansen (5-4-9). Goalie Juuse Saros has a 7-5-1 record with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

Duchene has three game-winning goals, including two in overtime. Josi’s six goals are the most by any defenceman in the NHL this season and his 16 points are tied for first among defencemen with the New York Rangers’ Adam Fox (4-12-16).

This will be the first game between the Canadiens and Predators since March 10, 2020, when Nashville won 4-2 at the Bell Centre. That was the last game for both teams before the NHL regular season was shut down because of COVID-19.

The Predators have an 11-1-4 record in their last 16 games against the Canadiens and have limited Montreal to an average of 1.60 goals per game during that span. In 15 of those 16 games, the Canadiens have scored two goals or less. The Predators are 6-1-1 in their last eight games at the Bell Centre.

Predators defenceman Alexandre Carrier, who missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup Saturday night. The Predators selected the Quebec City native in the fourth round (115th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft from the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. Carrier has 1-4-5 totals in 13 games this season.

Mike McCarron, the Canadiens’ first-round pick (25th overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft, played the last four games with the Predators after being called up from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. McCarron had 0-2-2 totals in seven games with the Admirals and has no points in his four games with the Predators.

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Bergevin unhappy with team’s effort

Bergevin did a phone interview with The Athletic’s LeBrun on Friday before his positive COVID-19 test was announced .

Bergevin noted that the Canadiens have been missing Price, Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson this season — their No. 1 goalie and two of their top four defencemen from last season’s run to the Stanley Cup final. That created a big hole in the lineup, but Bergevin said that doesn’t justify the Canadiens’ terrible start to the season.

“(Thursday) night for me was a performance that was hard to watch,” Bergevin told LeBrun. “I just didn’t like the effort from the start to the end. And that’s unacceptable. That’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Bergevin added that the team’s problems started at training camp.

“We didn’t get engaged from Day 1 of camp,” the GM said. “And it dragged on into the beginning of the season. And we’re paying the price. It’s hard to watch when the team that was so good for two and a half months in the playoffs falls so flat on its face from the beginning of the season. It’s hard to comprehend.”

When asked if Ducharme’s job security should be questioned now, Bergevin said: “Not at this point, but again, if you look at a few months ago, Dom took pretty much the same team to the Stanley Cup final and he didn’t become a bad coach in three months. It’s not only one person. It’s not only one issue.”

Scoring problems

The Canadiens have been outscored 67-38 this season and are averaging only two goals per game. The only team with a worse offence is the Arizona Coyotes, who are averaging 1.76 goals per game and have a 2-13-2 record.

Nick Suzuki, Josh Anderson, Ben Chiarot and Hoffman are tied for the team lead in goals for the Canadiens with four each. Heading into Saturday’s games there were 105 players in the NHL with five goals or more.

“It’s the NHL and it’s not easy to score,” the Canadiens’ Tyler Toffoli, who has three goals, said after practice Friday. “I think we’re getting looks and it’s definitely frustrating and hopefully things can get turned around here. There’s really nothing else to say. Just keep getting the opportunities and we just got to find a way to finish them.

“It’s not fun,” Toffoli added. “We had a good practice today. Hopefully the work can turn things around and get some puck luck and all that. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to working for your opportunities and the more chances you get the better opportunity and better chance you have of producing.”

Edmundson joins teammates

There was some good news Saturday when Edmundson, who has yet to play this season because of injury, took part in the optional morning skate.

Edmundson still hasn’t been cleared for contact, but Ducharme said it was a positive sign to see him on the ice with his teammates for the first time this season.

Drouin said the Canadiens have really missed Edmundson both on and off the ice.

“Eddie’s a loud guy in the room, on the bench,” Drouin said. “He brings energy to his game, he’s hard to play against. I did it for a couple of years (against Edmundson) in St. Louis. He’s not a fun defenceman to play against. I think he brings the confidence to our D core where he’s a steady defenceman that’s going to play the game every night. I think we’re missing that a little bit and it’s going to be nice to get Eddie back at some point.

“It’s definitely nice to see him skating where it gives you that moral boost that he’s coming back at some point,” Drouin added. “It’s just nice to see him skate with the guys this morning.”

What’s next?

The Canadiens will have the day off Sunday and then practise Monday and Tuesday in Brossard before hitting the road for three games next week.

They will play the Washington Capitals on Wednesday (7 p.m., SNE, SN1, SNO, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), the Buffalo Sabres on Friday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, SNE, SNO, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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