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Canadiens’ Max Domi back at practice, figures to be key piece vs. Penguins – Sportsnet.ca

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BROSSARD, Que. — After weeks of speculation as to whether or not Max Domi would participate in Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL’s return-to-play protocol, the centreman was at Montreal Canadiens practice on Monday.

Domi, who’s a type-1 diabetic and has Celiac disease, was given seven to 10 days from the onset of training camp last Monday to make a decision on his participation. As Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin explained last week, Domi wanted as much assurance as possible that he’d be in a safe and controlled environment given that people with his medical condition are in a higher risk category should they contract COVID-19.

It was clear Domi felt assured when he emerged as part of Montreal’s second power-play unit prior to this Monday’s practice. He then participated in full with Laurent Dauphin and Alex Belzile as wingers.

“He’s on board. Obviously he’s back,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said about the 25-year-old Winnipeg native. “But we know that, in his case, if there’s ever anything that happens that would put him at risk, he could leave.”

Julien noted that Domi had skated several times on his own in Toronto before joining the Canadiens at practice on Monday.

As for Domi’s conditioning, Julien said he’ll give him time to catch up.

“For now, it was a good first day for him and a day where he realized the pace is pretty high for a group that’s been practising for the last week,” Julien said. “It was good to see him and he appears really positive and very pleased that we have a group here that appears to be in real good health.”

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was particularly pleased to see Domi with the group.

“It was really good to see him today,” Price said. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our locker room and on the ice. He’s a vocal guy and he’s got a unique laugh that everybody likes to hear.”

Domi was all smiles on the ice as he worked his way through drills.

As to where he’ll fit into Julien’s lineup, the coach said that’s yet to be determined.

“I’m not there yet,” Julien said. “We still have the rest of the week before we play our first game against Toronto. We have a lot of time to make adjustments and also a lot of time where things can happen that can force certain adjustments. So there’s no point in cementing myself on certain decisions. There are already some lines intact that we know well, there are already certain players we know will be in our lineup, but we’ll take our time with everything else.”

One of the decisions Julien will have to make is whether to play Domi at centre or move him to the wing.

The bulk of Domi’s 36 goals and 135 points in his first 222 games as an NHLer, and as a member of the Arizona Coyotes, were scored from the wing. But since coming to Montreal via trade in the summer of 2018, his 45 goals and 116 points in 153 games were mostly produced from the centre position.

“He can play both,” said Julien in response to a question about where he’d prefer to play Domi. “The question is a question, it’s a good question. I think he can play both, so there’s no issues there. And that’s the good part about a lot of these players, where there’s a versatility in their game that can be used at both.

“I keep saying it over and over again—anyone who can play centre can play wing, but somebody who’s never played the centre position and plays wing can have a hard time. We’re blessed to have a lot of players who can play both positions.”

Regardless of where Domi lines up, Julien feels he’ll be an important factor in Montreal’s play-in series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is scheduled to begin in Toronto, on Aug. 1.

“We’re adding a player with a lot of offensive ability,” Julien said. “We’re adding a player who has experience in the NHL. Every year, he’s in our top three or four scorers. So, when a player like that joins your group, it’s a plus.”

Domi is expected to make his first public comments since May 14 following practice on Tuesday.

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Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien hospitalized with chest pains – CBC.ca

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Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien is in hospital after suffering chest pains following Wednesday night’s playoff series opener against the Philadelphia Flyers in Toronto.

General manager Marc Bergevin says associate coach Kirk Muller will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the best-of-seven series while Julien is sidelined.

Julien, 60, went to hospital after Philadelphia’s 2-1 win in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Canadiens, the lowest-seeded team in the NHL’s post-season, upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the qualifying round.

A native of Blind River, Ont., Julien has been an NHL head coach since 2002 when he began his first run as coach of the Canadiens.

Julien guided the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011. He returned to coach Montreal midway through the 2016-17 season.

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Report: Westbrook out to begin playoffs – TSN

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When the Houston Rockets begin their playoff quest for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, they won’t have Russell Westbrook.

The former MVP is expected to miss at least the start of the playoffs because of a strained right quad, Jonathan Feign of the Houston Chronice is reporting.

Feign adds that there is no firm timetable but Houston believes he will be out for at least the first few playoff games and possibly longer.

He will not play Friday in the Rockets’ regular season finale against the Philadelphia 76ers.

In 57 games so far this season, his first in Houston, Westbrook is averaging 27.2 points per game on 47.2 per cent shooting to go along with 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

The Rockets head into play Thursday at 44-27, good for fifth place in the Western Conference.

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Stecher honors late dad after goal for Canucks in Game 1 win vs. Blues – NHL.com

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Troy Stecher saw the puck go in the net and instantly pointed with his right hand, the index finger, up in the air.

The Vancouver Canucks defenseman followed with a fist pump, screaming “Let’s gooooo.” He ended the celebration with a subtle, more personal point up to the roof on his way to the bench.

It was Stecher’s way of celebrating his go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal by honoring his late father, Peter, who died on June 21, Fathers’ Day. He was 65.

[RELATED: Full Blues vs. Canucks series coverage]

“It’s been tough obviously at certain moments throughout this process but I’m thankful to be surrounded by my teammates,” Stecher said following the Canucks’ 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round on Wednesday. “Obviously, I had a couple seconds there to reflect on my dad and the biggest thing is everybody showed support on the bench instantly and kind of gave me a tap and it just kind of motivated me to keep it going.”

Stecher’s goal at 5:37 of the third period gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead at Rogers Place.

It’s likely the most poignant and emotional goal scored by the 26-year-old from Richmond, British Columbia, who went to Canucks games with his dad while growing up.

“Any time someone goes through something like that, you feel for them, it’s sad,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “He’s probably had some hard days and to see that happen to him was special for sure, and I know his teammates were happy for him.”

After Stetcher scored, the Canucks responded by scoring two more goals, from center Bo Horvat at 8:01 and from forward J.T. Miller at 19:21, to seal their Game 1 win in the best-of-7 series.

Game 2 is in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET; NHL Network, SN, FS-MW).

“Winning definitely helps,” Stecher said.

Playing the game helps. Scoring arguably the biggest goal of his career helps. Teammates certainly help.

It’s all part of the life in the Stanley Cup Playoff bubble that Stecher needed in the months following his father’s death.

Forward Elias Pettersson embraced Stecher during a break in action shortly after he scored the goal.

“What Troy had to go through during the summer was just devasting, so I just wanted to go and hug him,” said Pettersson, a center.

Jacob Markstrom hugged him after the game.

“Very emotional for him,” said the Canucks goalie, whose father died from cancer in November. “I know what he’s going through and it’s not easy. For him to show that kind of emotion, just so happy he got it. I got emotional as well thinking about it so I gave him a big hug after the game. I’m super happy for him.

“To get rewarded with a goal in a big game with everything he’s been going through, that’s huge.”

Stecher can become a restricted free agent after this season and his future is unclear. 

But all that matters to Stecher now is what he can do to help the Canucks against the Blues. He started by creating a memory that months ago he would have been able to share with his dad.

Instead, it’s one he used to honor him.

But Stecher didn’t want to dwell on it for too long.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to keep going here,” Stecher said. “We have to put our foot forward and get ready for the next game now.”

NHL.com staff writer David Satriano contributed to this story.

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