Coach Claude Julien, preparing for games on consecutive nights and looking to give starting goaltender Carey Price a rest, confirmed the decision after the morning skate at Bell Centre.
“My message to him tonight is be true to yourself, play with the confidence you showed to get here,” Julien said of Primeau. “If you do that, I think you’re going to give us a good chance to win a hockey game.”
Primeau, 20, the No. 199 pick of the 2017 NHL draft out of Northeastern, is the son of former NHL All-Star forward Keith Primeau. He was promoted from the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate, Laval, on Tuesday, after Montreal placed Keith Kinkaid on waivers.
Kinkaid, 30, entered the season as the primary backup to Price but struggled in five starts. Kinkaid, who helped lead the New Jersey Devils to the postseason in 2018, was just 1-1-3 for Montreal, with a 4.24 goals-against average.
Primeau was 7-4-1 with Laval, posting a 2.58 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
“He’s calm, he’s square. A lot of goalies seem to be in the right position most of the time, and he’s one of those guys,” Julien said. “He doesn’t look like a guy who’s scrambling to make a save or to get back into position.”
The Canadiens have two sets of back-to-back games across a seven-day span, beginning Thursday night. After a 4-2 win Tuesday night over the New York Islanders that put an end to an 0-5-3 skid, Julien said the compacted schedule played a factor in Primeau’s promotion.
“I talked to him early this morning, and now I’m going to leave him alone,” Julien said. “It’s up to him to do his preparation and be ready to play.”