Gryba back, but Canadiens need revenge on scoreboard

If the Montreal Canadiens are focussed on targetting Ottawa Senators defenceman Eric Gryba in Tuesday’s Game 4, Senators centre Zack Smith says bring it on.

Gryba back, but Canadiens need revenge on scoreboard
Ottawa Senators Eric Gryba, serving a suspention, takes part in a team practice on home ice in Ottawa, Saturday May 4, 2013. The Senators face the Montreal Canadiens in game three tomorrow, Sunday in Ottawa.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

If the Montreal Canadiens are focussed on targeting Ottawa Senators defenceman Eric Gryba in Tuesday’s Game 4, Senators centre Zack Smith says bring it on.

“If they’re going into the game worried about Eric and wanting payback, that’s only going to work to our benefit,” Smith said following the Senators’ morning skate Tuesday.

Gryba will return to the Senators’ lineup for the first time since being ejected — and subsequently suspended for two games — following his devastating open ice hit on Lars Eller way back in Game 1 of the series.

It doesn’t much much matter whether the hit was legal or not — the general consensus around the hockey world was that it fell within the bounds of a ‘hockey play’, but NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan ruled otherwise — the hit and the comments afterwards served to fire up the Canadiens.

Before Shanahan made his decision, Brandon Prust of the Canadiens said he hoped that Gryba wasn’t suspended; suggesting, of course, that the Canadiens would take care of business themselves.

Yet with the Canadiens trailing the series 2-1, it would seem to be counter-productive to be chasing Gryba, rather than chasing a victory.

For his part, Gryba is simply trying to focus on doing what he does best: Play a basic, straightforward, defensive-minded physical game. Generally speaking, if you don’t notice him, he’s doing his job just fine.

“I’m sure guys are going to look for an opportunity to take a run at me, but it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before,” he said. “My game is not going to change one bit. That would be a shame if I did. I can’t wait to step on the ice tonight and help the team get another good result.”

To a man, Canadiens players insisted that getting a victory was more important than any retribution against Gryba. The Canadiens will also have to add a couple new players into the lineup because both Ryan White (upper body) and Brian Gionta (upper body) are out for Game 4. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien didn’t announce the replacements following his early afternoon meeting with the media.

The return of Gryba helps turn the page a little bit from the Senators’ fight-filled 6-1 romp over the Canadiens in Game 3 Sunday, a contest where Montreal melted down in the third period after the result was no longer in doubt.

Fact is, whether Gryba was playing or not, the Canadiens need a better effort from everyone. Goaltender Carey Price (3.69 GAA, .879 save percentage in the series) and defenceman P.K. Subban (25 penalty minutes in Game 3) can’t lose their focus for Montreal to succeed.

The advantage for the Senators is they know they can get to both of them, but Therrien maintains that the Canadiens played an “excellent” opening two games in Montreal and liked what they did in the first period of Game 3.

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