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Habs coach can return for Game 3 of Cup Final

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Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said he will be allowed behind the bench for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, after having served a full 14 days of isolation following a positive COVID-19 test.

Ducharme tested positive after his team’s first trip to Las Vegas in the semifinal series, and he has been kept away from the team since Game 3 on June 18. Ducharme, who had received his second vaccine shot less than two weeks earlier, said he had followed all of the NHL’s protocols. None of the coach’s close contacts — including Canadiens players and coaches — have also tested positive.

Ducharme said he has watched all of the Canadiens’ games so far with his girlfriend at home.

“Sometimes a few guys texted or called me to see how I’m doing in between games and things like that,” Ducharme said Saturday. “To watch the game on TV, obviously it’s a different point of view. It’s like I’m doing video live. So I get to see the replay, I get to see different angles, so I’m doing the best I can right now with what I can do and trying to help the guys.”

Luke Richardson has been running the Canadiens’ bench in Ducharme’s absence and has led Montreal to a 3-1 record in eliminating the heavily favored Golden Knights. Richardson is technically the interim interim coach, as Ducharme replaced Claude Julien, who was fired in February. Assistant coach Alex Burrows remains on the bench, while the team brought down director of goaltending Sean Burke to help run the defense.

The Canadiens are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. The series against the Tampa Bay Lightning begins on Monday in Florida. Game 3 is Friday in Montreal.

The Canadiens had been in communication with the NHL and local health authorities to see if Ducharme’s quarantine period could be reduced, since he is doubly vaccinated. Those attempts were unsuccessful.

Ducharme thanked his girlfriend for helping him get through the past week in lockdown. He also praised his coaching staff’s work in his absence.

“We’ve always worked together, and that’s what we’re continuing to do,” Ducharme said. “Luke, we talked, and he’s a team guy, he’s the kind of teammate you want to have with you facing no matter what challenge. Everyone’s playing their role and working together. What we’re doing today is preparing the team in the same way we did for the other series. It’s just that I’m doing it via video with the players. The rest — Luke, Alex, Burkie — the guys have taken on different roles for a few games and are continuing to advance as such. It’s a team job.”

Against the Lightning, the coach said the Canadiens “have to reduce the amount of penalties we take to the maximum, for sure.” Montreal has taken 52 penalties through 17 games this postseason — far fewer than the 84 the Lightning have taken through 18 games. However, Tampa Bay has a dangerous power play, which has connected for 20 goals on 53 opportunities (37.7%).

Ducharme video-called the team after its Game 6 clincher against Vegas — which fell on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, one of Quebec’s biggest holidays.

“I was really happy. Very happy, first for our players. We battled a long time to get there,” Ducharme said. “I would’ve liked to have been there to celebrate with everyone, but we have more ahead of us in the next round. So we want to have our biggest celebration at the end.”

No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the Canadiens last won it in 1993.


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