Game Day: Montreal Canadiens Return Home To Host New York Islanders

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

It has not been a large sample size for new appointed head coach Claude Julien, however, it is just enough to keep him satisfied for the time being after earning his first victory in return to the organization on Tuesday night, when the Habs made a visit to Madison Square Garden.

How was this accomplished? Thanks to the heroics of winger Paul Byron, he was able to sneak one by New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the fifth round of shootout, securing a final score of 3–2, sending the club home happy looking ahead to their next game.

As for when that happens, it all goes down at 7:30pm ET as the Montreal Canadiens are back at the Bell Centre as they get set to host the New York Islanders.

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Julien gave his team the day off on Wednesday, however, ahead of his 1,000th game as a head coach at the National Hockey League level, he gathered the squad for a morning session at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Quebec where he later confirmed that no lineup changes would be made ahead of Thursday night’s matchup.

Taking a deeper look at the milstone in which will be reached tonight, adding on to his impressive resume, Julien will become the 27th coach in league history to record the same achievement.

For his career, he has been with the Boston Bruins for 759 games, the Canadiens for 161 and the New Jersey Devils for 79.

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Following today’s matinee practice, Julien spoke with the cities local media about his soon to be benchmark where he said, “To be honest with you, not much. I’m being honest here. Those kind of things I always said I’ll certainly reflect on those when I’m sitting in my rocking chair thinking about things I accomplished in my career. Right now, to be honest with you, my mind is so much into tonight’s game.”

“It’s great, I’m not downplaying it. I can’t believe that it’s been 1,000 games because it’s gone so fast. You don’t accomplish that without good people surrounding you, whether it’s players, general managers, assistant coaches and all. There’s so much credit that goes around to people for allowing you to reach 1,000 games, so I’m certainly not downplaying it.”

Prior to the conclusion of his mid-day conference, Julien said to the cities local media, “It’s great, but let’s move on here because I’d like to see another 1,000 games in front of me, so I got to focus on that.”

With all this in mind, Julien will become the 10th active NHL coach with 1,000 games under his belt, placing him alongside Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville (1,517), Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff (1,471), Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz (1,418), Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice (1,346), Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter (1,262), New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault (1,111), Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock (1,091), Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett (1,090), and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Jon Tortorella (1,069).

John Mahoney/Montreal Gazette

When players were made availible to speak with the media, team captain Max Pacioretty was amongst those who did take some time to answer some questions and as you’d expect, Julien’s name came then came into play.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s special to have that honour in a city like this and with a franchise like this. So it’s pretty cool the day it landed on and exciting for him.”

As far as his acknowledgement goes for teammate Carey Price, he said, “These milestones, I’m not really made aware of them so I don’t have much time to think of them until right away. But Carey’s deserving of every personal recognition he gets. We hope to get a win for him always, but if there’s something to fuel it then it helps out a little bit more.

When he was asked about tonight’s upcoming game, Pacioretty said, “It’s a good opportunity for us to build off a good road game. I like the way we competed last game and I think that’s the number one thing that we have to worry about is compete level.”

John Mahoney/Montreal Gazette

When Julien’s press conference initially began, there was conversation with regards to how the practice went, and Julien then told the media, “I liked our skate this morning. It was short, but it was crisp and guys seemed excited about tonight. So hopefully we continue on the right track there and get ourselves in a good trend.”

As far as the conversation goes for postseason play, Julien, who was rather confident in his club, said, “First of all, we got to get there. Honestly, I can’t stand here and say we’re in. That’s the worst thing we can do. Any time you start a season, your first goal should always be to make the playoffs, then anything can happen. We still have to focus on that. There’s a lot of teams breathing down our necks here and we have to realize that. And that’s not to panic, that’s to say listen, we still got a job to do. So for me to talk about the playoffs, to me it’s too early, we’re not there yet. But can this team get into the playoffs? Absolutely.”

Looking at Montreal’s recent run, the team has not had a winning streak of more than one game since they won three in a row dating back to the beginning of January, as things on the ice continue to be revamped and put into execution on a daily basis.

Peter McCabe/Montreal Gazette

As far as the lineups go for tonight’s game, nothing has changed after a hard hour of work earlier in the day, therefore, veteran goaltender Carey Price has gotten the nod for the Canadiens while Thomas Greiss starts for the Islanders.

The Canadiens who are 32–20–8, currently stand in first place in the Atlantic division, though, only two points ahead of the Ottawa Senators who are quickly and surely catching up with Guy Boucher behind their bench in replacement of Dave Cameron.

The Habs are five points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (28–20–11), who they play on Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday night, marking their final visit of the regular season to the Air Canada Centre for a well-anticipated matchup of the rivals, however, not before another scheduled practice in Brossard on Friday morning at 11am ET.

John Mahoney/Montreal Gazette

With lots of activity currently in their books, the team will have Sunday to relax and get back into form before they return to work on Monday night when they take on the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Centre. This will be followed by a home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, with another break in the schedule to come after that.

Taking a look at the Eastern Conference as a whole, the Habs, who have seen their fair share of tough times, were in fifth place in the overall Eastern Conference standings, six points ahead of the ninth-place Florida Panthers with eight teams making the playoffs.

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Tonight’s game will begin at 7:30pm ET as the Montreal Canadiens look to sweep the Islanders in their final matchup of the regular season on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

This game can be seen on Sportsnet East and RDS, meanwhile, it can be heard on TSN Radio 690.