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(Charles Krupa)
(Charles Krupa)

Chara set for Game 3 return Add to ...

In these circumstances, as a big game looms, the natural impulse is to look for signs.

Were the Canadiens, up 2-0 on the Boston Bruins and playing at home, more lackadaisical than usual in their pre-game skate?

"It could have been better," said winger Michael Cammalleri. "It was addressed."

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Aha.

But were Bruins really that relaxed during their skate, or is it just a temporary respite from the vise that has gripped their team since the opening game of the series?

Didn't a couple of the players nevertheless allude to Monday's game being a test of their ability to keep their nerve?

What does all this mean for people inclined to read entrails, tea leaves and professional hockey players' states of mind?

Well, probably not much, frankly.

While it's important to manage emotions in the playoffs, the more crucial element in game three will surely be whoever manages to establish their game-plan first.

The Canadiens have done that in the opening games, and Boston coach Claude Julien, who for what it's worth was looking far more relaxed than he has in recent days, said the plan is to put a stop to it.

"It's certainly not about how hard we need to pounce on them, but more making sure they don't get those early goals," Julien said.

On the Montreal side of the ledger, the talk was all about maintaining focus - this is a team that strives to keep an even keel, and despite a marginally less intense morning workout, there was scant evidence of over-confidence.

"It's all for naught if you don't keep going . . . tonight's importance isn't underestimated," Cammalleri said.

Added Montreal's Hal Gill: "the Bruins are a good team, if you're not playing sharp and with that urgency, they're going to make you pay."

As ever in the lead-up to important tilts, both teams try to maintain a smiling public countenance.

Both were business-like, but the Bruins seemed happy to escape the building hysteria that seems to be gripping their fans.

"We're the underdog now," smiled Boston centre Rich Peverley, who always seems to reserve his best performances for the Bell Centre.

It looks as if both teams could see some injured players return for Monday's game.

Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn sat out game two after taking a shot on the leg in the series opener, but practiced with the team and will be a game-time decision.

Centre Jeff Halpern, who hasn't played since Mar. 30, also took a regular turn at practice, although it's not expected he'll be ready.

The Bruins may well have the benefit of seeing their captain, defenceman Zdeno Chara, return from the illness that caused him to miss game two.

"You saw him on the ice this morning, as of right now it's looking good, but I can't stand here right now and say he's a definite 'in'," Julien said.

The former Habs head man even joked with the media when asked whether he'd like to emulate Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who abruptly reversed his field Monday after steadfastly refusing to discuss roster moves or goaltending earlier in the playoffs.

"I think I have the option of taking whichever page I want to take out Peter Laviolette's book," Julien said. "I liked the page the other day, I didn't like this morning's page."

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