Phillip Danault Gains Expanded Role as Canadiens’ Injuries Mount
Andrei Markov wasn’t on the ice for the Canadiens’ practice Monday, but he’s expected to be in the lineup when the Canadiens face the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday (7:30 p.m., RSE, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).
There was concern when the defenceman left in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 win in Washington with what was described as an upper-body injury. But coach Michel Therrien suggested that Markov was sidelined as a precaution.
“He’s day-to-day, but I’m sure he’ll be playing,” said Therrien.
The Canadiens are dealing with long-term injuries to forwards Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais and defenceman Greg Pateryn. Also missing is forward Andrew Shaw, who is dealing with a concussion.
Despite the losses, the Canadiens remain among the NHL’s top teams. They have a 3-1-2 record since Galchenyuk suffered a knee injury on Dec. 4 in Los Angeles.
“We’ve bought into the team concept,” Therrien said when asked the secret to the Canadiens’ success. “We give different roles to some players and they’ve certainly raised their game and met the challenge. I like the way we play 5-on-5. We stick to the plan and we’re a demanding team to play against because we want to play with pace. So even if we’re missing guys, we still believe we can win.”
One of the players asked to play a larger role has been Phillip Danault. He started the season on the fourth line, but he is centring the top line with captain Max Pacioretty and Alex Radulov on his wings. The 23-year-old from Victoriaville has taken advantage of an opportunity after coming over from Chicago last season.
“He’s improving a lot,” said Therrien. “He’s a young player who’s established himself in the NHL. He’s strong on the puck. We could see from Day One of training camp that he was a different player.
“With young players you see the improvement from one year to another,” added Therrien. “He’s playing with confidence, he has poise. He’s a guy that players want to play with because he’s doing the right thing. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but he’s responsible.”
Danault has pushed Tomas Plekanec down a notch on the depth chart, but the veteran knows that he is making a contribution even if his offensive numbers are down.
In Saturday’s 2-1 win in Washington, Plekanec played a key role as a penalty-killer, won 10 of his 15 faceoffs and was on the ice in the final minute as the Canadiens held off the Capitals.
“Obviously (the numbers) could be better, but the season is long,” said Plekanec. “We’ve played 30 games and there’s still a lot of hockey to be played. You see what your role is and every time I go on the ice, I know what I have to do.”
The Canadiens have three games before taking a few days off for Christmas and Pacioretty said it was important to take advantage of having the next two games at home.“We have a good record at home and it’s important to fd off the crowd, keep teams on the outside and limit their chances,” said Pacioretty.
Therrien said Carey Price will start against Anaheim and it’s a pretty good bet he’ll be matched against Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk Thursday at the Bell Centre. Dubnyk, who was in the Canadiens’ organization for a brief time in 2014, is the NHL leader in goals-against average (1.62) and save percentage (.947).
Al Montoya will probably get another shot at the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road Friday. He and the Canadiens will be looking for redemption after losing 10-0 in Columbus on Nov. 4.