Canadiens Notebook: Jake Evans is out indefinitely with concussion


“He’ll definitely miss a lot of time,” coach Dominique Ducharme says. “It’s tough to say how long right now.”

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Jake Evans won’t be in the lineup when the Canadiens play the Jets Friday in Game 2 of their North Division final in Winnipeg (7:30 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and it remains uncertain when he will be able to return.

Head coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed Thursday that Evans suffered a concussion when he was knocked out cold by a vicious check from the Jets’ Mark Scheifele after scoring an empty-net goal with 57 seconds remaining in the Canadiens’ 5-3 victory in Game 1. Evans was taken off the ice on a stretcher and will be sidelined indefinitely.

Scheifele, who received a five-minute major penalty for charging and a game misconduct for the hit, had a hearing scheduled with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday afternoon about a possible suspension.

Ducharme said Evans didn’t go to the hospital after Wednesday’s game and spent the night at the team’s Winnipeg hotel under the care of two team doctors.

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“I saw him last night in the rink before leaving, saw him again at the hotel and then seeing him again this morning,” teammate Paul Byron said Thursday. “Last night he looked pretty rough, pretty shaken up by the hit. It was hard seeing him last night. We’re glad he’s OK, glad he’s feeling a little bit better. I know he has a concussion now and he’s not feeling the best. But it was good to see him at the hotel. You’re always hoping it’s nothing serious, so I’m glad that’s not the case. We got to win hockey games for him. That’s the best way to respond now.”

Evans was also taken off the ice on a stretcher after suffering a concussion during a Rookie Showdown game against the Ottawa Senators in 2018 in Laval after a hit from defenceman Jonathan Aspirot knocked him out. During the postseason last August in Toronto, Evans was knocked woozy and had to be helped off the ice after being checked hard into the boards by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brandon Tanev during Game 3 of the qualifying round.

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“Any concussion you can be worried about,” Ducharme said. “When it affects the brain … you can have one and sometimes it’s one too many. You never want to see that. We’ve been not too lucky with that this year, I find. We had a few guys and it’s too bad to see what happened to him last night.

“He’s doing better,” Ducharme added about Evans. “We have two doctors with us. They took care of him last night. They didn’t feel the need to take him to the hospital, which is good news. He’ll definitely miss a lot of time. It’s tough to say how long right now.”

Artturi Lehkonen, who has missed the last five games with an undisclosed injury, is now healthy and is expected to take Evans’s spot on a line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher for Game 2.

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Defenceman Jeff Petry said Evans and Lehkonen are both players who can bring energy to the lineup.

“They’re in on the forecheck,” Petry said. “Art, he’s a good PK guy. He’s a guy that we rely on on the PK. A guy that’s in on the forecheck and responsible defensively. A lot of similarities between him and Jake. I think he’s a reliable player. Jake’s a big part of our PK and Artturi is as well.”

Ducharme thanked the Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers for protecting Evans while he was laying on the ice unconscious after the hit. Ehlers placed his body between Evans and other players who were pushing and shoving in a scrum after the hit to prevent anyone from falling on the injured Canadiens player. Ducharme noted that he coached Ehlers for two years with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads and really appreciated what the Jets player did.

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Will Romanov play?

Canadiens rookie defenceman Alexander Romanov has been a healthy scratch since the start of the playoffs, but there’s a possibility he could be in the lineup for Game 2 against the Jets.

Erik Gustafsson only had 6:41 of ice time in Game 1 and his mistake on a first-period power play with the Canadiens holding a 2-0 lead resulted in a short-handed goal by the Jets. Gustafsson didn’t play at all in the third period.

When asked if Romanov was an option to play in Game 2, Ducharme said: “They’re all an option. I won’t put a percentage. We’re not there yet. We’re playing tomorrow night. We’re back at the rink today, we’ll see. We’ll take decisions.”

When asked if going with seven defencemen might be an option, Ducharme said: “It’s an option, but it would be unlikely. I think we’ll keep the formula with 12 (forwards) and six (defencemen).”

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Romanov played in 54 of the Canadiens’ 56 regular-season games, posting 1-5-6 totals and a plus-1 while averaging 17:15 of ice time.

“You look at his work ethic all year, he’s always the first guy on the ice, he’s working on things that he needs to work on,” Petry said about Romanov. “The message (to him) I think is the same from everyone. Just be prepared to come in because you never know what’s going to happen with injuries, with things like that. For a young guy to hear that I think the way he’s worked all year I don’t think he’s decided now to slack off or anything like that. He’s still the same guy that’s going on the ice early, working on things he needs to knowing that when he gets his chance he’ll be ready.”

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Four in a row

After never winning more than three games in a row during the regular season, the Canadiens have now won four straight in the playoffs after winning Games 5, 6 and 7 in their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Game 1 against the Jets.

“I think coming off a pretty emotional high from the Toronto series our team found a way to really carry the momentum into the game last night,” Byron said Thursday. “The team’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. You look up and down the lineup I think all the four lines are playing really good hockey, our D are playing really well right now, (Carey Price) is playing on another level. We’re just getting the group effort we need from everybody right now.

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“I know it sounds cliché, but that’s what playoff hockey is,” Byron added. “You can’t have a weak link. You can’t have a line that takes a night off. For our team that’s kind of our identity is just having four lines to attack you, to forecheck you, to create turnovers. Spend zone time … it puts a lot of pressure on their team and makes the game harder for them. So the game plan going into the next game we’ll try to replicate and do the same thing. Watch some tape, see how we can improve our game and try and get better each night and know that each win becomes harder and harder.”

Added Petry: “The last four games that we’ve played we’ve played a solid game and that’s the way we want to play. We all know what happened last night … the best way to get back at them for that is to win the series. Our focus is to make sure we’re playing the right way, the way we’ve played in the last three games and make them pay that way.”

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Defence chips in

The Canadiens only got two points from their defencemen during their seven-game series with the Leafs — one assist from Petry and one assist from Gustafsson.

In Game 1 against the Jets, the Canadiens got six points from their defencemen: Petry and Edmundson had two assists each, while Gustafsson and Shea Weber also had assists.

“I think we had chances in the Toronto series,” Petry said. “I think we were involved. We got shots and then we knew it was just a matter of time before the results were going to come. Our focus as a back end is our zone first and to make sure that we have good breakout passes to get in on the offence and then contribute when we get in there.

“We knew it was just a matter of time,” Petry added, “but our focus is is keep the puck out of our net No. 1.”

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Petry also spoke about how much he enjoys having Edmundson as his defence partner.

“I think he’s a guy that knows his style of play, the way he plays, what works for him,” Petry said. “Night in and night out, that’s what he brings. He’s an easy guy to play with. You know where he’s going to be, what he’s going to do. He’s hard on the puck, he makes a good first pass. So all those things are his recipe for consistency and success. He’s a nice guy and an easy guy to play with.”

KK shines in playoffs

After scoring only five goals in 56 regular-season games, the Canadiens’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi now has four goals in seven playoff games.

Last season, Kotkaniemi had six goals in 36 games with the Canadiens before being sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket. In 10 postseason games last year with the Canadiens he had four goals.

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“He’s shown up to play in the playoffs,” Petry said about the 20-year-old Kotkaniemi. “We saw it last year, we’re seeing it again this year. He’s playing a heavier game, a harder game, he’s going to the net and at this time of the year that’s what you need. It seems like the playoffs bring out the best in him.”

The schedule

Here’s the rest of the schedule for the North Division final between the Canadiens and Jets:

Game 2: Friday, June 4: at Winnipeg, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, June 6: at Montreal, 6 p.m.
Game 4: Monday, June 7: at Montreal, 8 p.m.
x-Game 5: Wednesday, June 9: at Winnipeg, TBD
x-Game 6: Friday, June 11: at Montreal, TBD
x-Game 7: Sunday, June 13: at Winnipeg, TBD
x-if necessary

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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