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Canadiens Notebook: This could be a busy weekend for Carey Price

Canadiens goalie Carey Price takes a water break during second period of NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2019.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price takes a water break during second period of NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2019.

Don’t be surprised if Carey Price plays back-to-back games for the first time this season when the Canadiens face the Capitals Friday night in Washington and then the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Price has played in 15 of the Canadiens’ first 18 games, posting a 9-4-2 record with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. All three of backup goalie Keith Kinkaid’s starts have come in back-to-back situations and he has a 1-1-1 record with a 4.35 goals-against average and a .879 save percentage.

Coach Claude Julien said after practice Thursday in Brossard that Price will definitely start Friday against the Capitals (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), but that he will wait until after that game to decide which goalie starts Saturday against the Devils (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

Kinkaid spent five seasons with the Devils before signing as a free agent this summer with the Canadiens and Julien was asked if that might weigh into his decision on who starts Saturday.

“Everything weighs in our decision,” the coach said. “You don’t just look at one thing. Yeah, it’s his old team. Is he motivated, or do they know his weaknesses? We talk about those things like everybody else does. At the end of the day, you look at different things. We’re going to look at the workload of Carey Price. If he has 10 shots tomorrow — which I doubt will happen — he’s had a day off yesterday (from practice), so do we put him back in? We have to consider that.

“We’re not hiding anything, we’re just making decisions based on the time and making that decision at the right time,” Julien added. “I have an idea what I want to do, but I can’t say 100 per cent. So if I’m not 100 per cent, I don’t think I need to go out there and say this is what we’re going to do because my decision right now might be different after tomorrow night.”

Price is currently on pace to play 68 games, four fewer than his career high in 2010-11 and two more than he played last season.

“It’s just kind of one of those things you got to judge as you go along,” Price said about managing his workload. “It’s a long season. You got a lot of variables involved with scheduling and injuries.”

When asked if there is a lot of back-and-forth conversations with Julien and goalie coach Stéphane Waite about how much he should play, Price said: “Absolutely. It’s kind of, what’s the word I’m looking for — I’m not thinking well. It’s a group effort, we’ll call it. There’s a lot of talk between us, some dialogue. Like I said, it all depends on how you’re feeling. Different games have different workloads and there’s a lot of variables involved.”

Kotkaniemi hoping to play

Jesperi Kotkaniemi is hoping to play Friday night after missing the last six games with a groin injury.

“I’m feeling pretty good on the ice,” Kotkaniemi said after Thursday’s practice. “I think there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be able to go. I wish I’ll be in the lineup tomorrow. But if the day will be Saturday, it’s not a big disappointment.”

Julien said he was still waiting to get the green light from the team’s medical staff for Kotkaniemi to return to the lineup.

“I haven’t talked to the medical staff yet … we just got off the ice,” the coach said. “If everything goes well, we hope he’s going to get (back) this weekend. So whether it’s tomorrow or whether it’s Saturday … if everything goes well. I haven’t received (the green light) yet, but he’s looking good out there in my eyes. Hopefully when it comes to the other (medical) side of it, they’re feeling good about it and we’ll go from there.

“Having said that, if he does (get the green light) — and this is not medical, that’s on my side of it — there’s a chance you’ll only see him play one game,” Julien added. “You don’t bring a guy who has had a groin injury first time back with back-to-back games. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. This is not medical. He might be cleared medically, but I think smartly we would be wise not to put him in a back-to-back situation. So if he plays tomorrow, chances are he won’t play Saturday. If he doesn’t play tomorrow, he might play Saturday — as long as he’s got the green light.”

In 12 games this season, Kotkaniemi has 2-1-3 totals and is minus-1 while averaging 13:02 of ice time and winning 43.1 per cent of his faceoffs.

New look for Kotkaniemi

Kotkaniemi is sporting a new closely-cropped hairdo.

“I didn’t want to use jell anymore every day,” Kotkaniemi said. “It’s more simple like this.

“Have you seen the TV series Prison Break?” he added. “I’m a big Michael Scofield fan.”

Scofield, portrayed by Wentworth Miller, is a fictional character in the TV series and has close-cropped hair.

Petry trade was a beauty

One of the best trades Marc Bergevin has made as GM of the Canadiens came on March 2, 2015, when he acquired defenceman Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a second-round pick (Jonas Siegenthaler) and a fourth-round pick (Caleb Jones) at the 2015 NHL Draft.

Siegenthaler, a defenceman, is now with the Capitals, posting 1-2-3 totals in 20 games this season. Jones, also a defenceman, is playing for the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, with 2-8-10 totals in 13 games.

Petry, meanwhile, has developed into an elite NHL defenceman with another season after this one left on the six-year, US$33-million contract he signed after joining the Canadiens.

“I don’t think it’s been any secret in this locker room how good of a player he is since we got him,” Brendan Gallagher said about Petry. “You saw the impact as soon as we made that trade. He came onto our team and just added that much more to rely on. He does so much. You can use him in all situations and we definitely rely on him quite a bit.”

During Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre, Petry logged a season-high 32:12 of ice time. Petry has 2-8-10 totals this season and is plus-7 while averaging a team-high 24:36 of ice time, leading Shea Weber, who is averaging 23:00.

“I think the two of them work well together,” Gallagher said about Petry and Weber, who both play the right side. “It’s nice for us. You look at both those guys are well over 20 minutes every game. So that’s over two-thirds of the game where that side of the ice is locked down and you don’t have to worry about it and that makes a big difference.”

Said Julien about Petry: “He’s  just a good player. He skates well, he supports the attack, he’s moving the puck well. I think he’s gotten better defensively. He’s grown as a player.

“Shea was playing the other night (against Columbus) after missing two days with a fever and the flu and everything else,” the coach added. “He still played a fair amount (23:36) but it was a smart move to use Jeff a little bit more and in that case we needed him to be a little bit more on the ice than usual. So he steps up and he does the job.”

Shoot the puck!

When it comes to shooting the puck, Gallagher is more into quantity than quality of his shots.

That’s a big reason why Gallagher is on pace to surpass the 30-goal mark for the third straight year and with eight goals in 18 games is on pace to score 36 this season.

Gallagher leads the Canadiens in goals and shots (65) shots this season, ahead of Weber (49), Tomas Tatar (49) and Petry (43). Gallagher ranks sixth on the Canadiens in shooting percentage at 12.3 per cent, trailing Phillip Danault (17.8), Jonathan Drouin (17.1), Joel Armia (15.0), Victor Mete (14.3) and Nick Suzuki (13.6).

Gallagher’s goal in Tuesday’s win over the Blue Jackets was another example of the old saying: You don’t score on 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take. Gallagher took what looked like a harmless shot from just inside the blue line, but it went through the legs of Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins.

“It was really a situation I was coming over the blue line, I think it was one-on-three,” Gallagher correctly recalled. “I couldn’t really chip it in because there were bodies. I was just putting it on net and hopefully a rebound comes out and start the forecheck. I’d be lying if I said I thought it would go in — but you shoot enough pucks, you get a few bounces.”

The lines

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

Drouin – Danault – Gallagher
Byron – Domi – Armia
Tatar – Suzuki/Kotkaniemi – Lehkonen
Cousins – Thompson – Weal

Chiarot – Weber
Mete – Petry
Kulak – Fleury
Reilly – Folin

Rocket win streak ends

The Laval Rocket saw their six-game AHL win streak come to an end Wednesday night when they lost 5-4 in overtime to the Belleville Senators at Place Bell.

The point the Rocket earned for the OT loss moved them into first place in the North Division with a 9-5-2 record, one point ahead of the Toronto Marlies (8-2-3) and the Rochester Americans (8-3-3).

Charles Hudon had a hat-trick against the Senators, while Kevin Lynch scored the other goal for the Rocket. Goalie Cayden Primeau stopped 20 of 25 shots and now has a 5-2-1 record with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. Ryan Poehling, playing his first game with the Rocket after being sent down by the Canadiens after Tuesday night’s game, was held off the scoresheet.

Alex Belzile leads the Rocket in scoring this season with 6-5-11 totals, followed by Hudon (8-2-10), Lukas Vejdemo (4-6-10), Otto Leskinen (0-8-8) and Xavier Ouellet (2-4-6).

The Rocket have two more home games this week against the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., RDS).

What’s next?

The Canadiens had a 2 p.m. flight to Washington on Thursday and will play the Capitals Friday night (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). The Canadiens will fly back to Montreal after that game and play the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

Next week, the Canadiens will travel to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), play the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and then wrap up the week next Saturday night against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

scowan@postmedia.com

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