MONTREAL – A regularly scheduled visit by a sports psychologist came at an opportune moment for the struggling Montreal Canadiens.
The club is coming off a 5-3 defeat in New Jersey in which it blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads and now has a pair of afternoon home games against the Washington Capitals on Saturday and the Winnipeg jets on Sunday.
Psychologist David Scott, who talks to players from time to time during the season, spoke to the players ahead of an optional skate on Friday.
“It’s good timing,” coach Randy Cunneyworth said. “Mentally, physically, these are the challenges we have.
“It’s difficult, that mental part of not having the level of success you want. It’s about starting fresh, getting ready, recovering. No one says it’s easy but if we stick together, we will battle it by committee.”
He said the visit was scheduled well in advance and had nothing to do with the club’s current plight. Montreal is 0-2-0 since the all-star break and is tied for last place in the NHL Eastern Conference.
“Everybody has some level of frustration,” said Cunneyworth. “But you have to get in the right frame of mind and try to improve.”
The Canadiens called up winger Aaron Palushaj, who leads AHL Hamilton in scoring, to fill in for Mike Blunden, who was injured when hit from behind into the boards by New Jersey’s Patrick Elias on Thursday night. Elias was fined US$2,500 by the league.
Palushaj played 15 games in Montreal during earlier call-ups without registering a point.
Cunneyworth had no details of Blunden’s injury, other than that it did not appear overly serious
“He took a bit hit,” he said. “That was a dangerous hit from that far from the boards.
“Fortunately, there was no real severe damage.”
Forward Ryan White, who has yet to play this season, is close to a return but will not play on Saturday. The team also put winger Travis Moen on injured reserve, although Cunneyworth said he may be able to return from an upper body injury next week.
The Washington game marks the return of Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin from a three-game suspension for a boarding incident.
Backup Peter Budaj will get the start in goal, while Carey Price is expected to play Sunday against the Jets.