Canadiens eager to get going again, with Oilers up first

NHL Hockey

Those pocket schedules Montreal Canadiens fans picked up this winter won’t be very helpful this spring.

The Canadiens’ remaining slate of games has been upended after a weeklong pause because of coronavirus concerns.

Montreal was scheduled to host the Edmonton Oilers three times last week and then play host to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, but all four games were postponed.

The Canadiens then were scheduled to play at Ottawa on Tuesday, but instead they will play host to the Oilers that night. The contest will make up one of games postponed after Montreal forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol March 22.

Kotkaniemi was back on the ice Monday when the Canadiens returned to practice, but Armia is supposed to remain out for another week or so, coach Dominique Ducharme said.

Canadiens players underwent virus tests before resuming activities at their practice rink in Brossard, Quebec.

“That’s not a decision we make,” Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher said of the pause. “You know if it was up to us, we would have played, obviously, but they have a lot of other things to worry about. They couldn’t risk it spreading, and I guess the type of virus, I don’t know much about this, but it was a different variant.

“So I guess they were worried about it being a little more contagious, and they just thought it was in the best interest to shut us down. We had no choice but to listen. We would have loved to keep playing, but we’re back now, and hopefully we don’t have to go through it again.”

Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli, whose team-leading 18 goals are tied for fifth in the league, remains out with a lower-body injury.

“He’s getting better and better,” Ducharme said. “He won’t be playing (Tuesday), but he’s going to be on the ice in the next few days.”

Veteran forward Michael Frolik, who signed with Montreal in the offseason, is expected to make his Canadiens debut in their first game since a 5-4 shootout victory against the Vancouver Canucks on March 20. Fellow forward Eric Staal, acquired in a trade Friday with the Buffalo Sabres, remains in a seven-day quarantine.

The Canadiens remain in fourth place in the seven-team North Division but have at least four games in hand on each of their Canadian rivals.

“Before we shut down, we felt like we made improvements and our game was just kind of starting to find a way,” Gallagher said. “So hopefully we can get back to where we left off.”

The Oilers were supposed to be heading home after their game at Toronto on Monday, which they won 3-2 in overtime, but instead they will extend their trip for a day.

Darnell Nurse scored 17 seconds into overtime to beat the Maple Leafs. It was his 12th goal of the season, which leads all NHL defensemen.

“We knew what we were capable of,” said Nurse, whose team had lost its past four matchups with division-leading Toronto. “A big win for us.”

That came just two days after Toronto topped Edmonton 4-3 in overtime when Auston Matthews’ winner caromed off Nurse’s skate and into the net.

“That’ll be the joke — two overtime goals back-to-back,” Nurse said with a grin. “It’s good to be on the other side of it.”

–Field Level Media

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