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AT THE MORNING SKATE:
The Canadiens skated at their practice facility Thursday morning, which meant that the Oilers could bump their morning skate time to 10:30 at the Bell Centre.
Among the new faces on the ice were call-up forward Chris Minard and captain Ethan Moreau, who has been sidelined with a neck injury and hasn't skated since March 2 in Nashville.
When asked if Moreau will play tonight, Head Coach Pat Quinn said "probably not."
DUBNYK GETS THE NOD
Among the players who WILL play is goalie Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has been watching from the sidelines for the past three games as Jeff Deslauriers manned the net for the Oil, but after Tuesday's loss to Ottawa, Dubnyk moves back into the starting position.
The goaltending assignment follows the plan Quinn announced after the Olympic break: Winning goalie stays in until he loses, then other goalie gets the start.
"We made a plan and that's the plan and we're going to go with it," Quinn explained. "We obviously want to give each of the two down the stretch the chance to show whether or not they can be the men that carry us forward."
Dubnyk is looking forward to the contest vs. the Canadiens.
"Any opportunity I get to play right now is really exciting still," he said. "I've heard from just about everybody that it's a pretty exciting place to play and I'll just let that add to the excitement and go play."
The 23-year-old is still looking for his first NHL win, but he isn't letting that pressure distract him from the task at hand.
"Thinking about the outcome, you're never going to get there if you do that," Dubnyk explained. "If I want to think about that, I try think about it at home, away from the rink, and when I come here just get back to concentrating on the things I need to do that's going to get that win."
CHRIS CRACKS OILERS ROSTER
After Patrick O'Sullivan suffered a hand injury last game, the Oilers called up forward Chris Minard from the AHL's Springfield Falcons Wednesday afternoon. Tonight's game in Montreal will be the 28-year-old's first game as an Oiler and 36th NHL contest, following 35 appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins over the past two seasons.
"He would have had a chance earlier the way this season's gone injury-wise, but he was injured for much of the season himself," Quinn said. "Just in the morning skate, he knows what to do with those hands, they look pretty good, so we're going to give him some ice time and see how things go.
"First game, and I'm sure he'll be excited, and why not? What a great place to start."
"It's been a long year, a long frustrating year sitting out and watching and going through the losing process down there hasn't been much fun," Minard added. "I'm real happy to be here and hopefully take advantage of the opportunity."
OILERS (21-39-6) at CANADIENS (33-29-6)
Last 10: Edmonton 3-7-0; Montreal 6-4-0.
Season Series: This is the second meeting between the clubs. They met just over one week into the season on Oct. 10 in Edmonton, where the Oilers came away with a 3-2 win.
Big Story: Things are starting to finally work out for the Canadiens as they grabbed their fourth win in five games Tuesday with a victory over the Lightning. Holding strong in seventh for a few days now, they will have the opportunity to tie the Flyers in points, who are in sixth place with 74 points. Thursday will also be the last time Montreal faces a Western Conference team, as its final 13 games are against teams from the East.
Oilers: Edmonton lost its League-worst 39th game of the season Tuesday night, a 4-1 defeat to the Ottawa Senators, but there were some moments of brilliance in the form of Jeff Deslauriers. The Oilers' goaltender made some incredible saves and kept Ottawa at bay until the end of the second period.
Deslauriers was named the third star of the night and finished with 35 saves. Fernando Pisani scored Edmonton's lone goal at the beginning of the second period before the Sens would go on to score four of their own.
"Playing like that is what got us in trouble lots of other nights," said Oilers coach Pat Quinn. "We had a lot of turnovers, and when you are a chaser you never establish the forecheck and spend lots of time in your own zone.
"When your forwards play the way ours did it puts a lot of pressure on your goaltender and defense. We didn't win any battles. It would be hard to give any one of our forwards a good grade."
Canadiens: Facing a Lightning squad that boasts a chunk of French-Canadians who normally do very well in Montreal, the Canadiens showed they are serious about making the playoffs with a 5-3 win. Montreal got offense from all four of their lines. Mathieu Darche, a 33-year-old callup from the AHL, had two goals, while Scott Gomez picked up a goal and two assists and Glen Metropolit recorded his career-high 15th goal of the season. Left wing Benoit Pouliot rounded out the scoring.
"That's what it takes to win -- everyone's chipping in," said Gomez. "We're getting healthy bodies and we're starting to look like the team we should have been all year."
Who's Hot: With his shutout against the Devils on Sunday and his highlight-real saves on Tuesday, Deslauriers is making a strong case that he should become Edmonton's No. 1 goaltender next season.
Gomez has eight points in his last four games and his line with Brian Gionta and Pouliot has had great chemistry.
Injury Report: Ethan Moreau (neck) is questionable for Thursday as well as Patrick O'Sullivan, who left Tuesday's game in the first period with a left hand injury. Center Ryan Stone is out with a knee injury, while left wing Ryan Jones (torn right MCL) is out for four weeks and could miss the rest of the season. Ladislav Smid (neck surgery), Sheldon Souray (right hand surgery/infection), Ales Hemsky (left shoulder surgery), Jean-Francois Jacques (back surgery) and Nikolai Khabibulin (back surgery) are all out for the season. .... Injured Habs Mike Cammalleri (right MCL) and Marc-André Bergeron (knee) both skated on Tuesday and Cammalleri could make his return on March 20 against Toronto. Defenseman Paul Mara is out with an upper-body injury, while center Maxim Lapierre will be serving his final game of a four-game suspension for his hit on the Sharks' Scott Nichol.
Stat Pack: Not only did Metropolit score his career-high 15th goal on Tuesday, but he did so in his 400th career NHL game. This is his seventh NHL team and if he plays in all of the remaining games in the regular season, he will have suited up for Montreal more than any of his previous employers.
Puck Drop: "I’m feeling good right now, but maybe I was just playing that bad at the beginning of the year. To tell you the truth, Brian (Gionta) finally pulled his head out of his (rear end), so that’s what actually happened. I blame him for it. Gio (Gionta), Benny (Pouliot) and I are really coming together as a line right now. We’re really finding each other out there." -- Montreal center Scott Gomez, joking on his recent success.
-- Magalie Lafrenière, NHL.com