Habs California trip will be no holiday

Maxim Lapierre (l) will be looking to shut down Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks Thursday night. - AP Photo

Here's hoping that the Montreal Canadiens (30-28-6) aren't paying attention to those celebrity-infused California tourism commercials, because the next three games in four days will be no vacation.

The Canadiens open up their three-game Golden State swing with a stop in San Jose tonight against the Western Conference leading Sharks (40-14-9). They will play a pair of back-to-back games over the weekend against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

Last season,  behind the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, Montreal surprised the Sharks with a 3-2 home victory. This time around Carey Price will get the call in goal. Coach Jacques Martin is making no roster changes from Tuesday's lineup, with the exception of healthy scratch Matt D'Agostini who was traded late Tuesday night.

The Canadiens are a lifetime 4-5-2 in San Jose, with their last win coming in a 3-2 overtime win on November 23, 1999.

Game time is at 10:30 EST

The Sharks have lost their last two games, prompting coach Todd McLellan to break up the Olympic line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. Devin Setoguchi, who had two goals in the Sharks last losing effort, moves up to the first line.

Projected lineups for San Jose:






Defense Pairings:  Boyle-Wallin, Murray-Blake, Huskins-Leach

Goal: Nabokov

San Jose made no moves at the trade deadline, standing pat with the team and depth they have to carry them into the playoffs. They did make one move on Wednesday, sending C Dwight Helminen and D Jason Demersback to the minors.

Their lone injury is defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is out with a knee injury.

There will also be a familiar face in the San Jose lineup for Habs fans in the form of defenceman Jay Leach. The journeyman rearguard played seven games for the Canadiens earlier this season, while the team was riddled with injuries, before going back on waivers. Leach has one assist with the Sharks in 20 games.

It will also be an exciting evening for Sharks center Torrey Mitchell, who grew up in Montreal. The third-year forward shared his experiences of growing up a Canadiens fan with the San Jose Mercury-News.

Mitchell said he usually went to a couple games a year at the Montreal Forum growing up and remembered one time when his family filled the four seats between the two benches right on the ice. He was maybe 10 at the time and got chastised by a security guard for reaching up to give Patrick Roy a pat on the back as he skated onto the ice at one point.

Mitchell also recalled being there for a morning skate when Saku Koivu was injured and sitting in the stands. Nervously, he approached Koivu and came away with an autograph.

Halak unhappy?: According to a tweet from the La Presse's Marc Antoine Godin: "Jaro Halak is almost back to square one after Vancouver & trade deadline. You can tell he's not too happy. http://bit.ly/aJGtep (in French)"

Just be careful how you read this, as Halak refers to his last NHL performance against the Philadelphia as not feeling like a number one goalie. His reference to still not feeling like a number one is a result of his disappointment in  Slovakia's finish at the Olympics.


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