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Mike Matheson to miss at least eight weeks

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The Canadiens placed defenceman Mike Matheson on the injured-reserve list Thursday morning with an abdominal muscle strain and called up Corey Schueneman from the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

The Canadiens acquired Matheson from Pittsburgh during the off-season in a trade that sent Jeff Petry to the Penguins.

Matheson grew up in Pointe-Claire, on Montreal’s West Island, and wasn’t able to play in the Canadiens’ season-opening 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night at the Bell Centre because of a lower-body injury that the team identified Thursday evening as an abdominal muscle strain. He is expected to be out for eight weeks.

“I told him control what you can,” head coach Martin St. Louis said after practice Thursday in Brossard when asked about Matheson. “Better now than mid-year, end of the season. The little silver lining is it’s allowing us to give more touches, more reps to our young D-men. I think when Matheson comes back we’re going to be maybe a little further along with our young D-men than if he was here and eating a lot of ice time. So there’s a silver lining there. I know it’s unfortunate that we lost him and I know he’s disappointed. But control what you can.”

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Matheson took part in the morning skate before a Kraft Hockeyville preseason game against the Ottawa Senators last Thursday in Gander, N.L., and he was expected to be in the lineup that night. After the morning skate, the Canadiens announced that they were making a lineup change and that Matheson would be replaced by Justin Barron. The Canadiens added at the time that Matheson was not injured.

The next day, when the Canadiens practised in Moncton, Matheson took what was called a “therapy day” by the team and he wasn’t in the lineup again last Saturday night in Bouctouche, N.B., when the Canadiens faced the Senators in another Kraft Hockeyville game.

It turns out Matheson did have an injury and he had an MRI on Wednesday morning before being placed on the injured-reserve list.

The Canadiens are also missing veteran defenceman Joel Edmundson, who suffered a back injury two days before the start of training camp during an on-ice collision with captain Nick Suzuki. Edmundson has started skating again, but there is no timetable for when he might start practising with his teammates.

St. Louis said that calling up Schueneman “brings us some depth right now going on the road” with the Canadiens playing the Red Wings Friday night in Detroit and the Capitals Saturday night in Washington.

With Matheson and Edmundson both out of the lineup for Wednesday night’s season opener, the Canadiens dressed four defencemen who combined had 14 games of previous NHL experience — Jordan Harris (10), Johnathan Kovacevic (4), Kaiden Guhle (0) and Arber Xhekaj (0).

The Canadiens set a record last season when they lost 731 man-games to injury and finished in last place in the overall NHL standings with a 22-49-11 record.

Cole Caufield picked up where he left off last season by scoring two goals against the Maple Leafs Wednesday night.

The Canadiens also got goals from Sean Monahan and Josh Anderson, who scored the winner with only 19 seconds left on the clock.

Last season, Caufield finished the season with 23 goals, including 22 in the 37 games after St. Louis took over from Dominique Ducharme as head coach. In the final game last season, Caufield scored three goals in a 10-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Canadiens goalie Jake Allen was asked after Wednesday night’s game if it’s possible to teach a young player how to score goals the way Caufield does with his wicked shot.

“I’m a goalie and I get scored on all the time,” Allen said with a grin. “I think I have a pretty good sense of how guys score throughout the game. I played against a lot of really good players. You get guys in practice that have maybe better shots than some of these guys. But it’s practice. There’s no pressure on you, you don’t have sticks in front of you. But to do that in a game at certain speeds and time and space is very small — it’s very quick — it’s a skillset that you really can’t teach. You can get better at it. But some guys just have a knack for it more than others and, fortunately, we have one with a knack.

“If you look at a guy like (Toronto’s Auston) Matthews last year (when he had 60 goals to lead the NHL) he scores in tight spaces in spots where guys would never get shots off,” Allen added. “That’s sort of what (Caufield) does. Cole’s shown tonight he’s off to a good start and he’s going to have a helluva career scoring goals in this league.”

A farewell to Price?

When he was playing for the Montreal Juniors in the QMJHL, Allen used to go to Canadiens games at the Bell Centre and watch Carey Price play.

“He’s only a couple of years older than me,” the 32-year-old Allen said. “I know how much he meant to this organization, the city and this fan base.”

It now looks almost certain that Price’s career is over at age 35 because of a knee injury that limited him to five games last season and has now placed him on long-term injured reserve. Price received a huge ovation from Bell Centre fans when he was introduced before the season opener and he came out wearing a dark grey suit with matching cowboy hat to chants of “Ca-rey! Ca-rey!”

“It’s great to have him around,” Allen said. “He’s been the face of this franchise for 15 years probably. It’s great for myself, personally, to have him around. I get along with him great. I’m never going to be able to fill Carey’s shoes, but I’m going to do the best that I can to pick up the slack in his spot.

“I don’t take it for granted that I had the opportunity to play with him for two years,” Allen added. “Hopefully I can in the future again. But that’s something I’ll cherish forever.”

Allen was asked if he can imagine what Price is going through mentally with the realization his career is likely over.

“It’s unfortunate,” Allen said. “But if you look at it from a realistic view, it could happen to anyone at any point in any career. I’ve seen it first-hand. You could be 22 years old in the NHL and you take a hit into the boards and you might never play again. It’s unfortunate. Our game is played so fast and so rugged and so physical and demanding now, especially as a goalie, and the amount of games Carey played over 14, 15 years.

“To be honest, I’m impressed that he got that far,” Allen added. “I personally never would have got through that amount of games (712), I’ll tell you that. He was very diligent taking care of himself — I’ve watched that — and it’s even tougher to see a guy that takes that much pride in his body and his body sort of rejecting what he’s doing to try to help it. It would be totally different if he was a guy who wasn’t trying. But from Day 1 he was a freak about his body in a positive way. I think it showed a lot of these young guys — even last year — how intense he was about taking care of his body in the right way just to make sure he could play at the highest level he could.”

Allen was given the day off at practice Friday after stopping 29 of the 32 shots he faced against the Leafs. He will be back in goal Friday night against the Red Wings.

Crossing the border

The Canadiens will play their first game in the United States Friday night after playing all eight of their preseason games and the home opener in Canada.

“We’re going to have to listen to two anthems now before the game,” defenceman Chris Wideman said with a grin after practice Thursday.

“It’s good … it’s always fun to play in Detroit and Washington,” Wideman added.

The Canadiens will be facing former teammate Ben Chiarot when they play Detroit after the defenceman signed a four-year, US$19-million contract with the Red Wings as a free agent this summer.

“I’m looking forward to playing against Bennie Chiarot again,” Wideman said. “Seeing big Bennie. We’re going to have some fun with him, so we’re looking forward to seeing him. He’s a great guy. He was a big part of the room here and a guy that we definitely miss off the ice. So it will be fun to see him.

“Detroit’s a great team,” Wideman added. “They got some good, young players. They’re kind of retooling and building their team. It will be a good test for us and it’s their home opener. So they’ll have all the excitement that we had last night and we got to be there to match it.”

What’s next?

The Canadiens flew to Detroit after Thursday’s practice and will face the Red Wings Friday night at Little Caesars Arena (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690, 98.5 FM). They will fly to Washington after Friday’s game and play the Capitals Saturday night at Capital One Arena (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM ).

Next week, the Canadiens will play three games at the Bell Centre against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night and the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.

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Canada coach Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart’s handshake take – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada coach John Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart's account of skipped post-match handshake – The Globe and Mail

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Canada head coach John Herdman during a World Cup match against Croatia, at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 27.The Associated Press

Canada coach John Herdman is disputing his Croatian counterpart’s account of why there was no handshake after their World Cup game.

Herdman had antagonized the Croatian camp with a heated postgame message to his players after Canada’s opening 1-0 loss to Belgium at the soccer showcase. Asked in a pitch-side interview what he had said in a postgame huddle to his players, Herdman replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff – Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

That prompted a stern lecture from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on the need for respect. And after Croatia beat the Canadians 4-1 Sunday, Dalic was asked if he had a chance to shake hands with Herdman following the final whistle.

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“I did not see the other head coach after the match,” he said through an interpreter. “When I lose I always congratulate the winner. He was not there and that’s his way of doing things. He’s obviously mad. He is a good coach. He is a high-quality professional. But it will take some time for him to learn some things.”

Herdman, whose postgame news conference preceded Dalic’s on Sunday, disputed that account Wednesday when asked about it.

“Look, we shook hands before the game. So that happened,” he said. “At the end of the game, the usual process – no different than [with Belgium coach] Roberto Martinez. You shake hands with the coach, then you go shake hands with the referee.

“When I turned round, [Dalic] was already off down the touchline, which is his right to do. He’s celebrating. He’s just beaten Canada. It was a big celebration for him. He was off and I couldn’t get to shake his hand. I went into the field, shook the ref’s hand, shook players’ hands. And didn’t get to see him.

“That moment’s gone. We’re into process now – team huddle, see your fans, flash interviews, calm yourself down so you don’t say anything and move on.”

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