SAINT-JOVITE, Quebec — The depth of the Montreal Canadiens has distinguished them from the Ottawa Senators in this Stanley Cup Playoff series, and it’s about to be put to the test with the news that defenceman Nathan Beaulieu is out for the remainder of the first round with an upper-body injury.
Without confirmation, there’s been suspicion that Beaulieu suffered a concussion after he took what Therrien labeled to be a ‘clean hockey hit’ from Senators captain Erik Karlsson in the second period of Game 3.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS: | Broadcast Schedule
Stanley Cup Playoffs Fantasy Hockey
New Sportsnet app: iTunes | Google Play
Beaulieu played two shifts after the hit and sat conspicuously at the end of the team’s bench through the third period and overtime.
"He was evaluated between the second and third period," said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. "We were in a position to keep him on the bench if we were in a situation where you end up losing one or two defencemen. You never know–especially in the playoffs–you go through overtime, it can be long. That’s why we decided—as a staff and with the recommendation of the medical staff—that Nathan could stay on the bench. He got evaluated yesterday, and now we can say he’s not going to be able to play in this series."
Beaulieu had come into his own this season after volleying between Montreal and the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs for the last couple of years. He found his rhythm as a regular in Therrien’s lineup, earning his trust with his strong skating and puck-moving abilities, earning his favour with an unexpected toughness quotient.
Beaulieu didn’t hesitate to fight Toronto’s David Clarkson in mid-February after the former Leaf concussed defenceman Sergei Gonchar with a punishing hit.
"[Beaulieu] has got courage, that kid," said Therrien. "This is one thing we like about him."
Brendan Gallagher, having witnessed the strides the young defenceman’s made with the Canadiens this season, noted what the 22-year-old brings to the lineup.
"The confidence you see is a guy that can skate really well, has poise with the puck, and generally when the puck’s on his stick he’s going to make the right play," said Gallagher. "He’s going to be missed."
Therrien, who’s been reputed to place his faith in veterans, is opting for rookie Greg Pateryn to fill Beaulieu’s position. It’s an interesting choice considering he has Gonchar and his 141 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience at his disposal.
Mike Weaver, who proved very reliable in the team’s 2014 run to the Eastern Conference Finals, was also an option.
Pateryn’s appeared in 20 games (17 this season), but he’s never played a Stanley Cup Playoff contest. Tom Gilbert will move to the left side to partner up with the rookie on Montreal’s third pair.
"[Pateryn] played well when we called him up and he deserves to be there; deserves to get a chance and we have confidence in him," said Therrien of his decision to go with the rookie instead of Gonchar and Weaver. "He’s a powerful defenceman, he skates well, makes a good first pass, and we’re comfortable with him to play [Wednesday]."
Brendan Gallagher agrees. "[Pateryn] is gonna compete; he’s gonna finish checks; he’s going to be hard to play against; he’s got a very good shot that’s heavy and he’s just a complete player," he said after practice.
Pateryn knows his role. He assured he’ll be ready.
It’s been really physical, but I think that’s part of my game and I enjoy getting in there, whether it’s getting hit or giving hits," Pateryn said.
The Canadiens held a team meeting before taking to the ice for a one-hour practice in Saint-Jovite. They got a warm welcome from fans outside the arena, and they left to rousing ovations.
With that, their retreat to the Mont Tremblant area has come to a close. The Canadiens are on their way back to Ottawa with no other lineup changes planned.