The agonizing wait is almost over.
After a truncated season where the games were bunched closely together, the Montreal Canadiens have had four days to prepare for the challenge that is the Ottawa Senators.
Ordinarily, breaks that long are gratefully accepted by beaten and battered players, but the Habs are a team in a hurry - to get it started, to prove they are a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
"We want to play. It's been a long couple of days, we've talked about everything there is to talk about, you guys have got all your stories that you need to get, now it's about the battle on the ice and playing in the fun time of year," said defenceman Josh Gorges, a veteran of half-a-dozen playoff campaigns.
Like the Senators, the Habs have a passel of youngsters whose first post-season game will unfold in the fevered atmosphere of the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CBC, RDS).
There is excitement, then, but not too much.
"I had a really good sleep last night. But we'll see how it goes with the nap this afternoon," said 20-year-old blueliner Jarred Tinordi.
The players insist they've insulated themselves from the hoopla around Montreal and the attendant media circus, but it's clear that's strictly in the name of managing emotions, and trying to avoid over-excitement.
It's a similar situation in the Ottawa room as the Sens prepare to face their more storied regional foe for the first time since 1927, when the original incarnation of the team ousted the Habs in a total-goals two-game series en route to the Stanley Cup.
Craig Anderson earns the start in net for Ottawa, he'll face Montreal's Carey Price.Report Typo/Error