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Canadiens Game Day: Keith Kinkaid will start in goal vs. Flyers


Keith Kinkaid will start in goal Saturday afternoon when the Canadiens take on the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre (3 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) looking to end a six-game winless streak (0-4-2).

When Canadiens coach Claude Julien met the media at 12:45 p.m. at the Bell Centre he said that Carey Price will start Sunday when they Canadiens play the Bruins in Boston (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens have allowed 20 goals in their last three games — all losses on home ice — and are coming off a 6-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils Thursday night.

“It’s pretty simple … we got three games in four nights,” Julien said when asked to explain his goaltending decision. “Boston tomorrow gives an opportunity for Carey to get a little bit of rest. He’s played quite a bit. Again, those back-to-back games Carey, to me, has always played well in Boston. So there’s no reason why we don’t give him that rest and we don’t give Kinkaid an opportunity here tonight. So to me it’s a calculated decision on our part and we’re going forward with that.”

The Canadiens have an 11-9-5 record and are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers (14-7-5) are coming off a 6-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings Friday afternoon in Philadelphia and are in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

When asked what his message is to his players as they try to end their six-game winless streak, Julien said: “Same thing as what most coaches would normally say: less is more. Don’t try and do somebody else’s job. Trust the people you’re out there with to do their jobs and once that comes back everything kind of falls into place. Right now everybody wants to win so badly, they see a little mistake they want to cover up right away and sometimes they don’t give that guy a chance to cover his mistake. We just need a little bit of patience and trust and I think if those two things happen I think it’s going to change the outcome of our defensive game a lot.”

This is the second of three games between these teams this season after the Flyers beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia. They will wrap up the season series on Jan. 16 in Philadelphia.

Olofsson will make Canadiens debut

Defenceman Gustav Olofsson, called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket on Friday, will make his Canadiens debut against the Flyers on the third pairing with Cale Fleury.

That means Mike Reilly and Brett Kulak will be the healthy scratches.

In 20 games with the Rocket this season, Olofsson had 0-7-7 totals and was plus-1.

“From what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told, overall he’s been playing well,” Julien said about Olofsson. “He skates the puck, moves the puck well. He’s a guy that has a little bit of experience in this league.”

The Canadiens acquired the 24-year-old Olofsson from the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 3, 2018 in exchange for forward William Bitten. Olofsson played only two games for the Rocket last season before having season-ending shoulder surgery. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder played 56 games with the Wild over three seasons, posting 0-11-11 totals. The Wild selected the Swedish defenceman in the second round (46th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

“The injury last year really set him back,” Julien said. “So now he’s got about 20 games under his belt (in Laval) and seems to be coming around. In the circumstance that we’re in right now, I think it’s a great opportunity to see if he can help us out and bring a dimension to our back end that we can certainly use right now. So we’re going to have a look at him this afternoon and hopefully be able to come out of this with a real good evaluation of him.

Longest slump in two seasons

The Canadiens’ six-game winless streak is their longest season and is one game longer than their longest slump last season, when they went 0-3-2 from Nov. 19-27.

The last time the Canadiens had a six-game winless streak was two seasons ago when they went 0-4-2 from Feb. 8-20. They also had a seven-game winless streak that season, going 0-6-1 from Oct. 7-20. The Canadiens finished 28th in the overall NHL standings that season.

“It’s a long season,” the Canadiens’ Max Domi said Friday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “It’s how it goes, right? You’re going to go through, obviously, ups and downs throughout a year. We know that there’s no one who wants to win more than the guys in this locker room. So we’re doing everything we possibly can and it’s something we’re going to have to stick together. We’re a real close group and we believe in one another and we believe in each other. Keep doing that, keep working hard and just trust the process here. We just got to get one win and then go from there.”

Sense of urgency

There’s a sense of urgency surrounding the Canadiens heading into the back-to-back games this weekend.

“We have the same urgency for every game,” Domi said Friday. “We want to win every game. It doesn’t matter if it’s October or hopefully in June. That’s our goal. So every game’s the same and you got to elevate your performance and your compete level and all that on a daily basis. All we’re focused on is tomorrow against Philly. We haven’t won a game in a while and we got to win the next game against Philly. That’s all we’re focused on right now.

“We’re a team here,” Domi added. “We’re going to stick together and every guy’s got to pull their weight. Obviously, we can be a lot better for Carey. We know that and he knows that, too. So we got to be better for each other and as a team, I think as a whole, when we’re all going we’re a tough team to play against. That’s all we can control so we got to find ways to get back to that.”

Supporting Price

Kinkaid has been doing his best to support Price during this tough stretch for the No. 1 goalie.

“I think just motivate him,” Kinkaid said Friday morning when asked what he can do to help Price as his backup. “Give friendly competition. Give stick taps on big saves in practice and whatnot. He does that constantly to me. So he’s been great with that … even saves that I think are relatively routine,  you hear him at the other end tapping his stick

“I think it’s just being encouraging,” Kinkaid added. “He knows what to do. He’s a top-notch professional. He’s the best in the game. Everyone goes through this, so it’s nothing we’re going to stress about. We just got to get out of it and sometimes it’s ugly when you get out of it, but you need that ugly game to get over the hump I think.”

Kinkaid was also asked about Price breaking his stick in frustration after giving up the fifth goal in Thursday night’s loss to the Devils.

“That was just maybe a shot he knows he can save,” Kinkaid said. “Right now, like I said, people go through this. Even I know there’s a few shots I should have saved during the season, like the one (game) in Vegas. I let in two shots I knew I should have and we still got the win (5-4 in overtime). It’s just getting back to the basics, focusing on keeping your body in front of the puck and tracking everything. I know (goalie coach Stéphane Waite) worked great with him. He’s been working great with me to help my game, too. So I’m not worried for us at all. We’ve been resilient to start the season and we’ll come out of this.”

Where the Canadiens rank

The Canadiens rank ninth in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.32 goals per game, and 29th in defence, allowing an average of 3.52. They rank 17th on the power play (18. 4 per cent), 30th in penalty-killing (72.7 per cent) and 15th in faceoffs (50.1 per cent).

Tomas Tatar leads the Canadiens in scoring with 7-15-22 totals, followed by Shea Weber (8-12-20), Brendan Gallagher (10-9-29), Phillip Danault (6-12-18) and Domi (6-11-17).

Where the Flyers rank

The Flyers rank 14th in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.00 goals per game, and rank sixth in defence, allowing an average of 2.69. They rank 11th on the power play (20.2 per cent), third in penalty-killing (86.5 per cent) and first in faceoffs (53.9 per cent).

Travis Konecny leads the Flyers in scoring with 8-16-24 totals, followed by Sean Couturier (8-12-20), Jakub Voracek (6-13-19), Claude Giroux (8-10-18) and Oskar Lindblom (10-7-17).

What’s next?

The Canadiens will fly to Boston after Saturday’s game and play the Bruins Sunday night (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

Next week, the New York Islanders will be at the Bell Centre on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), followed by the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) before the Canadiens travel to New York to face the Rangers next Friday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

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