Canadiens Game Day: Habs call up Cole Caufield from Laval Rocket – Montreal Gazette

Habs place right-winger on the taxi squad and he won’t be in the lineup Friday night against Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre.

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The Canadiens announced Friday morning that they have called up forward Cole Caufield from the AHL’s Laval Rocket and put him on the taxi squad.

However, Caufield will not be in the lineup Friday night when the Canadiens play the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre (6 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

The Canadiens have also called up goalie Cayden Primeau from the Rocket on an emergency basis and he will back up Jake Allen against the Flames.

Coach Dominique Ducharme said after Friday’s morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard that Carey Price, who has missed the last five games with a lower-body injury, isn’t ready to return to the lineup. Ducharme added there’s a chance Price could play Saturday afternoon when the Canadiens face the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre (4 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Price took part in Friday’s morning skate.

Allen has played all five games during Price’s absence, posting a 1-4-0 record, but the Canadiens have only scored nine goals in those five games. Allen has a 6-7-4 record this season with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

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Jacob Markstrom will be in goal for the Flames. He has a 15-14-2 record with a 2.81 GAA and a .903 save percentage. In the last three games, Markstrom is 3-0 with only three goals allowed and a .957 save percentage.

Ducharme said that because of the team’s salary-cap situation, the Canadiens couldn’t fit Caufield into the lineup even if they wanted to at this point. The coach added that the only way they could is if another player was sidelined with an injury.

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“There’s one thing that we need to clarify is we’re not in a situation where we can make movement with the forwards — even with the Ds. We are in a cap situation with the league rules,” Ducharme explained. “I cannot bring a guy like (Jake) Evans in, we cannot bring (Michael) Frolik in, we cannot bring Cole in. The only way those guys come in is with an injury. So that’s my answer. We cannot predict if we’re going to be having injuries tonight, tomorrow, next week, we don’t know.”

Ducharme added that the Canadiens also need to make salary-cap room next week for defencemen Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill, who were acquired before last Monday’s NHL trade deadline. Gustafsson and Merrill are currently going through their seven-day COVID-19 quarantines at an Edmonton hotel and will join their new teammates next week. The Canadiens play the Oilers next Monday and Wednesday.

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The Canadiens had $362,436 of projected salary-cap space on Friday morning, according to CapFriendly.com.

Caufield was on the fifth line at Friday’s morning skate with Evans and Frolik.

In two games with the Rocket since leaving the University of Wisconsin, Caufield had 3-1-4 totals, including two game-winning goals.

The Canadiens selected the 5-foot-7, 170-pound right-winger in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft.

In 31 games this season with Wisconsin, Caufield posted 30-22-52 totals to lead the NCAA in goals and points and he won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in U.S. college hockey.

When Caufield was asked how the decision to call him up was explained to him by the Canadiens, he said: “It’s a business, so you never know truly what’s going on. I’m just trying to stay focused on the day-by-day aspect of things. Just work as hard as I can no matter where I am. It’s obviously an exciting experience just to be out there with these guys. Again, just working as hard as I can.”

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Ducharme said he wasn’t certain yet if the Canadiens would bring Caufield with them on their five-game Western Canada road trip next week.

“We cannot just bring guys in and scratch other guys,” the coach said. “It’s only injuries. Is it better to have him in Laval and have good long practices and keep adjusting, or doing two morning skates and one practice with us on the trip?”

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Chiarot returns to lineup

Defenceman Ben Chiarot will return to the Canadiens lineup Friday night after missing the last 15 games with a fractured right hand suffered in a fight with the Vancouver Canucks’ J.T. Miller on March 10. Chiarot was paired with Shea Weber at Friday’s morning skate.

In the 15 games without Chiarot in the lineup, the Canadiens had a 6-7-2 record.

“Everything feels back to normal … hand feels good and strong, so get back out there,” Chiarot said after the morning skate.

As for the matchup with the Flames, Chiarot said: “It’s as big a game as there’s been this year. It’s a team that’s hungry and chasing us in the standings. Obviously, we saw that last game, them coming out with a little more jump and a little more jam than us. So we’ll be looking for a big response from our team today.”

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The Flames beat the Canadiens 4-1 Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.

“I think we’re searching for some consistency,” Chiarot said. “We either look very together and organized and working together or we’re kind of spread out and not really helping each other out. So if I can just be another voice in the room or be doing my part on the ice to be supporting the play and kind of leading by example then that’s what I’ll do. But I think that’s going to be the most important thing going forward here. Our push to get into the playoffs is playing together consistently.”

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The Canadiens are holding down the fourth and final playoff spot in the all-Canadian North Division with an 18-13-9 record, but they are 1-4-0 in their last five games and have been struggling to score with only nine goals during that five-game span. The Canadiens have also been struggling on the power play, going 2-for-25 in the last nine games.

The Canadiens rank 16th in the NHL on the power play with a 20.2 per cent success rate. They rank 12th in offence, scoring an average of 3.05 goals per game.

The Flames, who are in fifth place in the North Division and have won their last three games, have moved within four points of the Canadiens with a 19-21-3 record. The Canadiens hold three games in hand on the Flames.

The Flames have a 4-1-0 record against Montreal this season and have won their last three games against the Canadiens while limiting them to three goals.

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The Flames have four games remaining against the Canadiens, including Friday night. The last three games are in Calgary.

Heading into Friday’s game, Sportsclubstats.com had the Canadiens’ chances of making the playoffs listed at 91.3 per cent, while the Flames were at 7.1 per cent.

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The lines

Here’s how the Canadiens’ forward lines and defence pairings looked at Friday’s morning skate:

Tatar – Danault – Byron
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Anderson
Toffoli – Suzuki – Armia
Lehkonen – Staal – Perry
Frolik – Evans – Caufield

Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Kulak

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Praise for Bouchard

Not surprisingly, Caufield had good things to say about Laval Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard, who called the 20-year-old on Thursday to let him know he would be skating with the Canadiens Friday morning.

“It’s been unbelievable down there,” Caufield said about his time with Laval. “He’s one great coach and someone that I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from. He knows what he’s talking about and he’s done a great job this year and I was just happy to be a part of it and he’s just going to continue to teach me things and I’m just going to continue to learn.”

As for taking part in the morning skate, Caufield said: “It was an unbelievable experience. I’m just here to soak it all in and learn as much as I can in this time. It was great to be out there with those guys and just kind of do drills with them and learn from them and just kind of watch them on the ice. It teaches me a lot.”

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When asked if he noticed a difference in the speed skating with the Canadiens compared with the Rocket, Caufield said: “It’s the best league in the world and there’s obviously going to be a little bit of pace difference. But it was just a morning skate, so nothing too crazy. I was just happy to be out there and see what it’s like. Had some good meetings this morning. Just learning as much as I can and it’s a treat to be out here right now.”

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Change to Habs schedule

The NHL had to do some more schedule juggling Friday because of the Vancouver Canucks’ COVID-19 situation and it will have a small impact on the Canadiens.

The Canadiens were scheduled to finish the regular season on May 11 at the Bell Centre against the Edmonton Oilers. That game has now been rescheduled for May 12.

  1. Winger Cole Caufield has been a prolific goal scorer at every level he has played. He started his AHL career by potting a pair in the Rocket's 5-3 win over the Marlies in Toronto Friday night.

    Stu Cowan: Cole Caufield lives up to the hype in his pro debut

  2. Montreal Canadiens defenceman Brett Kulak scores a goal against Calgary Flames' Jocob Markstrom during second period in Montreal on April 14, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Habs can’t afford to add more fuel to Flames’ playoff fire

What’s next?

The Canadiens will wrap up their six-game home stand Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre against the Senators (4 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Next week, the Canadiens head to Western Canada for a five-game road trip. They will play the Oilers on Monday (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Wednesday (10 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) before heading to Calgary to play the Flames on Friday (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), Saturday (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the following Monday (6:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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