Sports News

Habs Murray up for physical playoff hockey

By Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

BROSSARD, Que. - Douglas Murray is all about the kind of physical hockey that's found in the NHL playoffs.

The six-foot-three 240-pound Montreal Canadiens rearguard doesn't skate fast, but he has learned from more than 500 NHL games in nine seasons how to use his size to block out opposing forwards and keep the front of his net clear.

That task is tougher when the opponent is the Boston Bruins, who have some big, punishing forwards pushing back.

Murray did not dress as the teams split the opening two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal in Boston, but was expected to replace Francis Bouillon for Game 3 at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

"The most important part when someone is physical against you is that you don't let it affect you," said Murray. "It's not always who knocks who down.

"It's — if you get knocked down — that you get up and play the same way again. That deters it. That's the most important part. If you get intimidated by it and play a bit more careful, they won the battle.

"But just because you get knocked down, it's not that big of a deal. I take pride in not getting knocked down. But I'd never worry about someone like (right-winger Brendan) Gallagher getting knocked down because I know he's going to be right in their face a second later."

After seven-plus seasons in San Jose, and the end of last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Murray joined the Canadiens this season with 72 playoff games under his belt — third highest on the team after Daniel Briere (108) and Travis Moen (73).

An area he can help is battling in front of the net, where the Bruins like to get traffic and block goalie Carey Price's view.

It's tougher to do with NHL referees calling obstruction fouls tighter than they did only a few years ago. And Murray doesn't see a big difference to how it's called from the regular season to the playoffs.

"To be honest with you, with the new rules and everything, I think it goes from game to game," he said. "It's really tough to know exactly what you can and cannot do.

"You've just got to pay attention during the game. If they're giving their guys a little liberty in front, you can count on getting the same for yourself."

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien opted not to load up with the biggest lineup possible to face the Bruins, preferring instead to try to beat the first-place overall team with quickness and skill.

But adjustments are made as a series moves along, particularly after Montreal blew a 3-1 lead in the final 10 minutes of the third period of Game 2 for a 5-3 loss on Saturday afternoon.

While Therrien would not confirm any changes before the game, it appeared that fourth-line left-winger Moen would return to the lineup in place of gritty winger Brandon Prust, who the coach has insisted is healthy but who looks decidedly off his game.

Moen, who missed the end of the regular season and the team's first-round sweep of Tampa Bay while recovering from a concussion, played the series opener against Boston but then sat out Game 2 in favour of rookie Michael Bournival.

"It definitely helps to have a game under your belt when you haven't played in five weeks, just to get your game legs back a bit," said Moen. "The biggest thing was just the timing.

"You're a bit slow on your timing and your reaction time wasn't quite where you'd like it to be, but it's something I've been working on."

The veteran suffered his injury in a fight with Boston's Kevan Miller on March 24, but payback was the last thing on his mind.

"It's playoff time," he said. "It's all about team.

"For me to run around and take a stupid penalty to try to get back at a guy ... it was a fair fight. Stuff happens. It would be unfair for me to do something like that and jeopardize our team."

The Canadiens were glad to see left-winger Rene Bourque back on the ice for their short, optional skate Tuesday morning. Bourque missed practice on Monday with a flu.

Goalie Carey Price, captain Brian Gionta, defenceman P.K. Subban and the entire top line of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek were among those who elected to skip the skate.

While the Canadiens skated at their suburban practice rink, the Bruins were on the ice at the Bell Centre.

There, the topic was Therrien's statements the day before, suggesting the Bruins were trying to get into Price's head after young defencemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton intimated they had found weaknesses in his game. Specifically, high shots with traffic in front of the net.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said the issue was exaggerated.

"Everyone has a right to their opinion," he said. "We know that since the beginning of the playoffs lots of things have been exaggerated to build an off-ice rivalry, but we're taking care of our own affairs.

"Both goalies, I don't think there are any secrets. I can say it again: we hope that people will write the things that were actually said. Carey Price, I had him for several weeks with Team Canada (at the Sochi Olympics). He's one of the best goalies in the National Hockey League. I don't think we're here talking about weaknesses or things like that.

"It's pretty obvious that thanks to him his team is very good at the moment. He's been playing some great hockey from the start. Some things said by a young player were taken out of context, and something bigger was made of it. As I said earlier, we're looking after our own stuff and we're keeping the focus on what we need to do on the ice, not off the ice."

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