Ducharme expects to return to coach Canadiens for Game 3 of Cup Final

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Dominique Ducharme said he expects to return to coach the Montreal Canadiens for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19 on June 18 and is required to quarantine for 14 days. Game 3 of the Cup Final is at Bell Centre in Montreal on July 2, 14 days from when Ducharme received a positive test. 

“I mean, I’m not putting X’s (on the calendar),” Ducharme said Saturday after addressing the team virutally. “I’m not trying to look at the calendar too often. It’s like watching your watch. Looking at your watch too often it looks like time doesn’t go by. So, I’m trying to be as busy as I can. Watching a lot of video and help the guys get ready.”

Ducharme missed the final four games of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Vegas Golden Knights; Montreal won that best-of-7 series in six games.

Luke Richardson has coached the Canadiens for the past four games, going 3-1, helping them advance to the Cup Final for the first time since 1993.

“Great job,” Ducharme said. “We work together as a group. We talk about every situation. It’s been like that every day. Now I needed to step back. We took that, kept moving forward. The same applies to our players. Right now they’re really dialed in, they’re really playing the way we want to be playing. They’re helping. They’re helping on that side for sure because they’re so sharp it makes everything easier.

The Lightning host Game 1 of the Cup Final on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“When we talk about adversity [the Lightning] faced, they went through some ups and downs,” Ducharme said. “Learned from it. Last year they won it. There’s a reason why they’re back in the Final this year. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us, that’s for sure. But in any final it’s supposed to be that way. We’ll be ready to go for Game 1.”

Ducharme was named coach after Claude Julien was fired Feb. 24. He went 15-16-7 to lead Montreal to a fourth-place finish in the seven-team Scotia North Division and a berth in the playoffs. Montreal defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the Stanley Cup First Round and swept the Winnipeg Jets in the second round.

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