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Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock’s ties to Montreal conjure up fond memories (he is a former McGill Redmen hockey player), the same can’t be said when he contemplates the recent hockey history between his Leafs and the Canadiens. The NHL’s most endearing rivalry will resume Saturday night at Bell Centre in Montreal with the Habs looking to win their 15th in a row against Toronto, a run that dates to the 2013-14 season.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Having attended McGill University and played hockey with the Redmen during his formative years in the mid-1980s, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has a strong affinity for the Montreal institution.

It is that city's NHL representative – the Canadiens – that puts him off his oatmeal in the morning.

Friday night, Babcock was scheduled to perform the ceremonial opening faceoff before his alma mater played Concordia University at McConnell Arena on the McGill campus.

"When I went there it was just a guy going to play hockey," Babcock said. "I didn't know anything about going to school or what I would do with my life."

It was while he was at McGill, from which he graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in physical education, that Babcock said he learned there was more to life than propelling a round rubber object over a frozen surface.

"And then I suddenly became a student and that opened up a whole lot of things in my life that I didn't know existed for me," Babcock said. "And I'm forever indebted for my time at McGill."

While Babcock's ties to Montreal conjure up fond memories, the same can't be said when he contemplates the recent hockey history between his Leafs and the Canadiens.

The NHL's most endearing rivalry will resume Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal with the Habs looking to win their 15th in a row against Toronto, a run that dates to the 2013-14 season.

That was before Babcock started coaching the Leafs, although his personal 0-8 record against Montreal the past two seasons accounts for a sizeable chunk of that slide.

"Zero for me but we're playing them [Saturday] and I'm jacked up to have that opportunity," Babcock said Friday when asked what Montreal's dominance over Toronto counts for.

"Would we like to beat them?" Babcock asked, before responding with the obvious answer. "Yeah.

"When you tell me that [having lost 14 straight], are we due? We're absolutely due. But I think [the game] is more important than anything that happened before."

The Leafs staged a short, brisk practice at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto on Friday before flying to Montreal.

The workout got off to a jittery start after a puck reputedly fired by defenceman Morgan Rielly shattered a pane of glass behind the net. The Leafs had to reconvene their practice on another ice pad within the sprawling facility.

Leaf defenceman Connor Carrick, who missed Wednesday's game – a 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils – with an upper-body injury, took part in the workout and is expected to return to the lineup Saturday.

Although the Leafs' sloppy defensive play against the Devils still gnaws at Babcock, the loss was their first of the season after three consecutive wins.

And with Montreal off to a 1-3-0 start, having scored only five goals, Toronto's chances of finally beating Montreal would appear strong.

But Babcock stressed that won't happen unless Toronto improves its defence, which was lacking against the Devils.

"That's on me, I didn't have the team prepared, ready to go," Babcock said. "We were no good in the morning skate, I could have zipped them. No matter what we said, they didn't get prepared to engage in a high enough level. We got outchanced 7-3 in the first and that's totally unacceptable. And then we got outskated and we had no battle.

"To me, when you're four games into your season, that can't happen. The other look is, 'Hey, Babs, lighten up, you're 3-1.' No. you come to work every day, you be a good pro and you prepare to be a good pro and things go your way. The league's too hard to take nights off. We did."

The Leafs, who are the NHL's top offensive unit with an average of 5.5 goals a game, did fire an impressive 50 shots at the New Jersey net.

"We did generate a lot of chances," Toronto forward Nazem Kadri said. "We just weren't able to find the back of the net. It's that simple.

"But at the end of the day we've got to tighten up, we're giving up too many shots against. We've proven we can do it last year. We've just got to commit to it and make it happen."

Many of the Leafs expressed a laissez-faire attitude when asked about Montreal's recent string of success against Toronto.

"I'm zero for my last zero against them, so it's not an issue," said defenceman Ron Hainsey, who joined Toronto in the off-season as a free agent.

Babcock still has a McGill necktie, which he wears on special occasions, but it likely won't see the light of day this weekend.

"I wore it in two Olympics and one World Cup," the coach said. "When we ever get a big game around here I might bring it out.

"But we got a lot of work to do to get in a big game."

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby says he didn’t hear speculation about his retirement after he sustained a concussion during the playoffs.

The Canadian Press