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Sports: Game Day Notebook: First game since Jan. 1 as Habs visit Bruins

Game Day Notebook: Two more Canadiens added to NHL COVID protocol list

  Game Day Notebook: Two more Canadiens added to NHL COVID protocol list Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme announced Thursday morning that two more of his players would be placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. Ducharme wouldn’t name who the two players were after the team’s optional morning skate in Carolina, adding the names would be released later in the day as per NHL protocols. “I think there’s a procedure with the league there, so I’ll wait for everything to be confirmed and sent to the league and everything,” Ducharme said about the names of the two players being released.

Jake Allen, who has come off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, will make his first start in goal for the Canadiens since Dec. 14. © Provided by The Gazette Jake Allen, who has come off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, will make his first start in goal for the Canadiens since Dec. 14.

The Canadiens will play their first game since Jan. 1 when they face the Bruins Wednesday night in Boston (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

The Canadiens had 16 players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list when they lost 5-2 to the Panthers on New Year’s Day in Florida and were forced to play with only 18 players instead of the regular 20. The Canadiens will have a full lineup against the Bruins after the number of players they had on the COVID-19 protocol list reached 24 during their break in the schedule.

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Jake Evans, Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson were on the fifth line at Wednesday’s morning skate and coach Dominique Ducharme said they won’t be in the lineup against the Bruins.

Evans was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Dec. 31, along with Alexander Romanov, and they quarantined in Florida before rejoining their teammates in Boston. Toffoli is still recovering from hand surgery, while Anderson is recovering from an upper-body injury.

Romanov also won’t be in the lineup against the Bruins.

Jake Allen, who has come off the COVID-19 protocol list, will make his first start in goal for the Canadiens since Dec. 14. He has a 5-15-2 record with a 3.10 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

Linus Ullmark will start in goal for the Bruins. He has an 11-5-0 record with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

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Evans was the first player on the ice for the Canadiens’ morning skate Wednesday.

“I didn’t know how I was going to feel, so I thought I’d get out there early so I didn’t make a fool of myself on the ice in practice,” he said. “But I felt pretty good. The lungs felt all right and the hands were as good as they’ve always been. It was just nice to get back and get back with everyone and be able to socialize with a few more guys and just kind of get back to a normal life.”

Evans said he wasn’t allowed to leave his Florida hotel room for the first six or seven days after testing positive for COVID-19.

“That was really tough,” he said. “You can only watch so much TV and you can only call so many people.”

Evans added that it was, however, a nice little mental break from hockey.

“You get a little fresh air as the days kept going and there was not much to do besides work out and enjoy the weather,” he said about his time in Florida. “I’m just really happy to be back now.”

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Head coach Dominique Ducharme said that after spending so many days off the ice in Florida, it’s also unlikely that Evans or Romanov will play Thursday night when the Canadiens face the Blackhawks in Chicago.

“I totally get the decision on that,” Evans said. “I’d love to play, I’d love to get back out there. I feel like even at the Christmas break I was getting my rhythm and excited to play and all that and then COVID hit. It’s just nice to be back with the guys, enjoying the team. Whenever Dom wants to put me in, I’ll be ready.”

Canadiens pick up Pitlick

The Canadiens claimed centre Rem Pitlick off waivers Wednesday from the Minnesota Wild.

The 24-year-old Ottawa native had 6-5-11 totals in 20 games this season with the Wild. The Nashville Predators selected the 5-foot-11, 196-pounder in the third round (76th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft. In 31 career NHL games, Pitlick has 6-7-13 totals.

Pitlick’s brother, Rhett, was selected by the Canadiens in the fifth round (131st overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft. Rhett, a 20-year-old left-winger, has 0-7-7 totals in 15 games this season with the University of Minnesota.

Habs' Wideman suspended one game for head butt on Bruins' Haula

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Rem played three seasons at the University of Minnesota, posting 21-24-45 totals in 38 games during his final year there.

Hoffman returns

After coming off the COVID-19 protocol list, Mike Hoffman will play his first game with the Canadiens since Dec. 16, starting on the first line with Nick Suzuki and Arturri Lehkonen.

“It’s going to be a good test,” said Hoffman, who has 4-4-8 totals in 19 games. “They got a good hockey club. We’ve been off for a while, but the energy seems great within the room with the guys. Everyone’s excited to get back and start playing again.

“You want to start building something,” Hoffman added. “Look forward to the future and this is our job, so the job isn’t over yet. We got to go out there and compete as hard as we can every night and hopefully take some steps in the right direction. … I think everyone’s come back from this with a fresh mindset and a lot of excitement. Guys are really looking forward to get back. We’ve never really had a pause this long in a season before so it’s not that easy to deal with. But the excitement level’s there and we’re looking forward to get back and start playing again.”

Bruins on a roll

The Bruins (19-11-2) are on a two-game winning streak and are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

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The Canadiens (7-23-4) are winless in their last three games (0-2-1), are 1-7-2 in their last 10 and have a 2-13-3 record on the road.

“I think it’s to be able to be consistent,” Ducharme said about the challenge facing his team. “To be able to compete for 60 minutes, not only physically but mentally. You get into that groove at one point when you play a lot and you have success and you play well, then you build momentum. We’ve been off for a while, we’ve been facing a lot of challenges since the beginning of the season. We haven’t built that momentum. But having our guys refreshed, mentally and physically, coming back the biggest challenge is to be able to sustain the game for 60 minutes. Being consistent, doing everything that we want to do.

“So that’s the biggest challenge tonight,” the coach added. “We don’t want to be at one point just cracking – 10 minutes, five minutes, that’s where those guys can be making the difference.”

This will be the second game this season between these two teams. The Bruins beat the Canadiens 5-2 in Boston on Nov. 14. The Bruins outshot the Canadiens 41-29 in that game with Sam Montembeault stopping 36 of the 40 shots he faced. Boston’s final goal was an empty-netter.

It’s interesting to note that the Bruins have 13 former first-round draft picks on their roster: Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Nick Foligno, Derek Forbert, Trent Frederic, Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore, David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakub Zboril.

The lines

Here’s how the Canadiens forward lines and defence pairings looked at Wednesday’s morning skate:

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Lehkonen – Suzuki – Hoffman

Drouin – Dvorak – Armia

Dauphin – Poehling – Caufield

Paquette – Vejdemo – Pezzetta

Toffoli – Evans – Anderson

Chiarot – Savard

Kulak – Petry

Niku – Wideman

Romanov – Schueneman

What’s next?

The Canadiens will fly to Chicago after Wednesday night’s game and play the Blackhawks on Thursday (8:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

The Canadiens had been scheduled to play the New Jersey Devils Saturday at the Bell Centre, but that is one of five home games this month that have been postponed by the NHL because of COVID-19 restrictions in Quebec that don’t allow fans in the arena. As a result, Wednesday’s game will be the first of seven straight on the road for the Canadiens.

Next week, the Canadiens will play the Arizona Coyotes on Monday (4 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (8:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday (10 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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Canadiens name Kent Hughes as their new general manager .
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