Danault shines in ex­panded role

Markov is ‘day-to-day,’ Ther­rien says

Montreal Gazette - - Sports - PAT HICKEY ph­ickey@postmedia.com

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 game 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.”

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.”

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).

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