Defenceman Paul Mara’s first game upon his return to the Montreal Canadiens will be the Tim Horton’s NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday at McMahon Stadium.
The Habs acquired Mara, 31, from the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday for a fifth-round draft pick. Mara spent last season in Montreal, totalling eight assists in 42 games before signing a one-year deal with the Ducks last summer.
There is a large number of media in Calgary for Sunday’s outdoor hockey game. The Canadiens are covered relentlessly by local press in Montreal and Mara was reminded of that Friday as he faced the microphones and television cameras.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming, but it feels good,” Mara said. “Montreal is a hockey hot bed of this world.”
Mara, from Belmont, Mass., played his junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves and Plymouth Rangers. He was drafted seventh overall by Tampa Bay in 1997.
The Habs are in need of reinforcement on the back end as Montreal left Jaroslav Spacek at home with a lower-body injury during their current road trip through Western Canada. James Wisniewski is day-to-day after taking a puck in the cheek in Thursday’s game in Edmonton. Hal Gill is just returning to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury.
“Paul is a good pick up for us because he knows our system, knows most of the guys,” goaltender Carey Price said. “There’s no real adjustment period. He knows everything about this organization already.”
TRADE TALK: The Montreal Canadiens took particular interest in Boston’s acquisition of veteran defenceman Tomas Kaberle from Toronto in exchange for prospect Joe Colborne and draft picks Friday.
The Bruins and Canadiens are battling for top spot in the Northeast Division. Montreal trailed the Bruins by two points Friday before Boston’s game against Ottawa.
“It’s an obvious message to their own team and to other teams they think they’re a contender,” Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri said.
SUNDOWN SUNDAY: The sun will set in the latter half of Sunday’s Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium. Game time is 4 p.m. local time and sunset is scheduled for 6:01 p.m., so part of the game will be under lights.
“I know the whole surrounding is pretty neat, but it’s not something that’s going to be a shock to us,” Flames head coach Brent Sutter said. “It’s winter in Alberta in February. You know the time it’s going to get dark, the lights will come on and it will be like a baseball game where you get to play under the lights.”
WEATHER WEIRDNESS: The constantly changing forecast for Sunday’s game reflects the big temperature swings that characterize southern Alberta’s climate.
Environment Canada’s prediction for Heritage Classic conditions changed throughout Friday from a high of minus-11 C in the morning to a more promising -7 C under clear skies. The previous day’s forecast for Sunday, however, had been for a high of -1 C.
When told the temperature for Sunday’s game could be anywhere between -11 C and -15 C, Flames head coach Brent Sutter responded “perfect for hockey.”