The script usually goes like this: when bad blood is spilled by the bucket-load in a playoff hockey game, the next contest in the series is a sedate affair.
It’s nearly impossible to maintain the adrenalin and emotional level through an off-day, and in any case, there are more immediate concerns: winning.
Going into Game 4 of their series on Tuesday (7 p.m., RDS, CBC), the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens are saying all the right things about the focus being on hockey, not settling scores – there was plenty of that in Game 3, which saw a line brawl and more than 230 minutes in penalties.
“Our focus is on getting a win, we know how we have to play,” said defenceman Josh Gorges.
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean, asked if he anticipates any repeat of the fistic fireworks in the last game, joked “Craziness? What craziness? There wasn’t any craziness was there?”
But how will the Habs react to the presence of Ottawa defenceman Eric Gryba, fresh off a two-game suspension for a devastating head shot delivered on Montreal’s Lars Eller?
“It should be interesting,” MacLean said drily.
MacLean’s counterpart, Michel Therrien, said Gryba doesn’t feature in the Habs’ game plan, and that he’s been preaching discipline to his players.
The fact is this is a must-have game for Montreal, which trails 2-1 in the series after a 6-1 drubbing on Sunday.
On a day the Habs received some good news – P.K. Subban’s nomination for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman – they also had some of the bad variety.
They will have to play without captain Brian Gionta, who also missed the second game of the series with an arm injury, and gritty centre Ryan White, whose set-to with Ottawa’s Zack Smith lit the fuse in game three (White has an unspecified upper-body injury).
It’s expected veteran centre Jeff Halpern and youngster Gabriel Dumont will be drafted into the lineup.
The Senators, meanwhile, are going to stick with their winning lineup from Sunday, other than inserting Gryba into the slot occupied by Patrick Wiercioch, who sustained an injury in the first period.
Carey Price will start in nets for Montreal, Craig Anderson goes for Ottawa.