Thirsty for action

Posted on 21 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – Coming off an injury-riddled campaign, Brandon Prust is eager to contribute to the Canadiens’ cause in a big way in 2014-15. Fully recovered from a torn oblique muscle that plagued him during the latter stages of the regular season last year, the 30-year-old left-winger insists getting back on track in short order is a top priority, as is staying healthy and chipping in wherever and whenever possible to give Michel Therrien’s troops a boost at both ends of the rink. “I definitely want to keep building. Last year was tough with injuries. I want to try and stay injury-free. Stuff happens, though. Some things you can’t control, but I want to get back to getting more ice time and being a bigger factor out there. I want to play well defensively, and get back to my game, my style that I played for many years and for lots of different teams,” stressed Prust, who registered six goals and 13 points in 52 regular season games in 2013-14, before racking up 2 assists in 13 postseason tilts. “Last year, I felt like I kind of got it going, then I got injured, then I got it back and got injured again. It was tough. I want to try and put in a full year, get my confidence going right away and start helping this team.” Based on Prust’s play thus far in training camp, it’s safe to say he’s on the right track. The London, ON native has made his presence felt in the intra-squad scrimmages at the Bell Sports Complex alongside linemates Dale Weise and Manny Malhotra. Their chemistry was noticeable again on Sunday, as Habs regulars, among others, contested their third scrimmage in as many days. “It’s a good line. We’ve been feeling it the last couple of days. We’ve been skating well and moving the puck around and getting some scoring chance and opportunities. We kind of have good chemistry right now, and we’re working hard and finding each other out there. It’s good,” offered the seven-year NHL veteran, who led the Canadiens with 32 penalty minutes, while registering 35 hits during the playoffs last spring. “Sometimes, you find some guys that you have better chemistry with. You know each other’s instincts. You know where they’re going to be. Even if you don’t see them, you know they’re going to be there. It’s good that way.” Prust’s return to form has quickly caught the eye of the Canadiens’ bench boss, who is pleased to see the former third-round selection primed to be an impact player come the start of the season on October 8th. “Up until now, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen. Brandon’s got a lot of jump in his play. That’s something he lost at the end of last year. He’s the type of player who needs a lot of jump in his game to be effective, but injuries hurt him in that department. The good news is that his first appearances have demonstrated that he’s got that jump back,” praised Therrien. “Last season, Brandon wasn’t able to stand out. But, he’s a warrior. He arrived at training camp in great shape. We all remember the contributions he made to this team when we brought him on board. We could put him on any line, a lot like Brendan Gallagher, and he would just get every player going. He’s come to camp with a terrific attitude.” Now, Prust is just counting down the days until he can test himself against players wearing something other than a CH on their chests, while dishing out some hurt along the way. “I think everybody’s eager to get going. These practices and scrimmages are good to get your legs going and get the feel for the game and the puck, and get your timing back, too. But, it’s fun to play hockey where you kind of hate the other guys,” confided Prust, who shouldn’t have a problem “hating” the opposition if he suits up for the Canadiens’ first preseason game on Tuesday night against the archrival Boston Bruins in Montreal. “You get physical out there and crash and bang. I think everybody kind of misses that part a little bit. There’s been some good crashing and banging out there, but it’s something that we really want to inflict on other people.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Familiar faces

Posted on 20 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – The world of professional hockey can be a small one. Just ask Habs hopeful Jiri Sekac, who arrived at his first full NHL training camp this week from the KHL to a familiar face in the Canadiens locker room. While his road to the NHL so far has included stops in the U.S., Canada, Russia and the Czech Republic, these days the 22-year-old left winger finds himself reunited with a veteran Czech countryman, flanking Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec on the Bell Sports Complex ice in Brossard, some 6,000 kilometers away from the pair’s native Kladno. And with 64 players at camp all vying for spots on the Habs’ 2014-15 roster, Sekac is thrilled to have an ally on his side to give him an edge over the competition, especially after arriving from the KHL, where larger ice surfaces have left the rising Czech star with some tweaks to make to his game. “It’s always good to have someone who’s a little closer to you around and [Tomas] helps me big time,” admitted the six-foot-two, 195-pounder who signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Habs over the summer. “I’m pretty happy that I get to play on a line with him and I’m really enjoying the game so far.” Fortunately for the Habs newcomer, Plekanec has also been happy to don a new role this year in addition to his duties as the team’s alternate captain: that of the big brother. “He helps me out in pretty much every way,” offered Sekac after playing on the same line as Plekanec and fellow newcomer Sven Andrighetto for a second-consecutive day at training camp. “He’s showing me places around Montreal. He helps me out in the locker room if I don’t know what to do. He's just here for me. It’s good to have him here.” The feeling is mutual. “It’s fun to play with him,” confirmed Plekanec of his newest linemate, three days into camp. “He’s a great player. He’s a great skater, he’s strong with the puck and he’s got pretty good hockey sense. I think he’s ready to go. Hopefully he’ll play some good preseason games and show what he can do. It obviously depends on management and what their plan is, but as a player, I think we can see he’s pretty much ready. He knows what he’s doing out there and he’s an asset that we need on our team.” It’s glowing testimonies like those from a six-time 20-plus NHL goal scorer that show why it was no wonder NHL teams were lining up to bid for Sekac’s services over the offseason, but Plekanec insists that he played no role in the three-year KHL pro’s decision making process. So when exactly, did the two first get back in touch? “After he signed,” laughed the 10-year Canadiens vet. “[That’s when] we talked about the team and how things work out here. I could feel that he really wanted to be here and he loved what he saw over the summer. He’s excited to play for the Canadiens.” Having played in Europe himself early in his pro career, Plekanec is confident any possible issues surrounding the more intimate North American ice surface will be a non-issue for his young apprentice. “I think he played here in Junior, so it’s not going to be such a big challenge for him. He knows what he’s got to do.” But if ever he doesn’t, you can bet Sekac will have a willing leader waiting to show him the way. Steven Nechay is a writer for

Keep on truckin’

Posted on 19 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – With a brand new season on the horizon, Rene Bourque is hoping to pick up right where he left off last year. After lighting the lamp at a torrid pace during the Canadiens’ deepest postseason run since 1993 last spring following a subpar regular season campaign, the 32-year-old right-winger departed La Belle Province back in June for his offseason home in Chicago with peace of mind. Now, Bourque just wants to keep trending in the right direction, showcasing the form that saw him score a team-leading eight goals in 17 postseason games in 2013-14. “I think I definitely came in with a better frame of mind this time around. I want to get off to a good start and I believe in myself that I’m still a good player. Obviously, I want to have a good camp and get off to a good start,” offered the nine-year NHL veteran, who skated on a line with Lars Eller and Jacob De La Rose during the Habs’ first training camp scrimmage on Friday at the Bell Sports Complex. Bourque, who put up just nine goals and 16 points in 63 regular season games last season, is excited to begin the 2014-15 campaign with a clean slate. “I want to be ready for the season-opener on October 8th, obviously. I want to be in the best shape that I can be. I want to be in good game shape, and just going in with some confidence and feeling good with my body and my mind,” stressed Bourque, who is adamant he isn’t putting any added pressure on himself entering his third full season in Montreal. “I’m going to work as hard as I can the next couple of weeks and prepare myself as much as I can.” If Bourque is feeling good about the state of his game right now, it’s safe to say head coach Michel Therrien feels exactly the same way. The Canadiens’ bench boss spoke highly of his power forward on Friday, acknowledging that while Bourque might’ve hit the proverbial wall time and again between last October and early April, he ultimately came through for the bleu-blanc-rouge when the stakes were at their highest and his team needed him most. “I’m hoping to see the same Rene Bourque I watched play at the end of last season. He’s a big guy, and he played great hockey at the end of the year and in the playoffs. We’re hoping that he’ll continue in that direction,” mentioned Therrien. “It was a bit of a tough season for Rene, but he put it all together at the end of the year. We’re hoping that with the way he finished, he can bring that same attitude back right from the start of training camp.” Based on the way the three-time 20-goal scorer reported to camp on Thursday, it’s clear he’s off to a stellar start. “Talking about Rene Bourque, I have to mention the fact that all of our players came to camp in extraordinary shape. It shows you just how serious they were over the summer. We were all impressed by the professionalism and desire that they put into their training before reporting to camp,” offered Therrien, who was quick to praise the Lac La Biche, AB native, among others, for their undeniable commitment to offseason training and preparation. Clearly in a good place both physically and mentally, all Bourque is focused on now is playing to his potential from puck drop onward on a consistent basis. “I think I’d like to score 20,” concluded Bourque, who should hit the 600-game mark for his NHL career come January. “I think that’s definitely a possibility.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Job seekers

Posted on 18 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – With a couple of spots up for grabs on the blue line, a trio of Habs young guns is out to prove they’re ready for a full-time NHL gig. Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn arrived at training camp on Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex with a common objective – show the Canadiens’ brass that they’re primed to take their respective games to the next level in 2014-15. While each one of them is confident in their abilities and believes they’ve got the skillset Michel Therrien & Co. is looking for, none of the three is taking anything for granted. “Even if I ended the season in Montreal, I’m not going to look at it like [I have the inside track]. It’s a new year. There are new guys, and there are guys we lost. So, I’ve got to play my game. I know I’m ready. I’ve just got to fill the role that they expect me to,” offered Beaulieu, who made his NHL playoff debut in 2013-14, suiting up for seven postseason games, including five tilts in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. “There’s a different feel coming to camp this year, though. The time is now, and it’s time to step up,” added the 21-year-old Strathroy, ON native, who racked up seven goals and 27 points in 57 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs last season. “They’re going to give me every opportunity like they did last year. I’ve got to show them that I’m ready to do my part. They did their part by giving me an opportunity last season to showcase what I’m capable of doing. Now, it’s my turn to reward them.” After making the team out of training camp last year before being shipped to Hamilton following a six-game stint in Montreal, Tinordi is also chomping at the bit to prove that he’s made important strides over the summer months and learned from past experiences. “My approach to every training camp has always been the same. I want to come here in the best shape I can be, and I want to show management the things I’ve been working on while learning as much as possible along the way,” confided Tinordi, who spent the better part of the 2013-14 campaign in the Steel City, but also donned the bleu-blanc-rouge for 22 games. “I have pretty high expectations for myself. I want to make the team out of training camp. I want to show that I’m ready to play in this league. That’s my goal. That’s all I can do.” Despite being the lone defenseman among the three not to be featured in Therrien’s lineup at any point last season, Pateryn insists he’s arrived at training camp with a mindset similar to his two counterparts. “The way I see it is we’re all here. We know what we need to do. We’re going to be competitive and it’s going be professional. I’m going to go out there and play my game, and so will everybody else. Management will take care of the rest,” stressed Pateryn, who led all Bulldogs defensemen with 15 goals and 34 points in 68 games last season. “You can look at [spending the season in Hamilton] as a disappointment, but it’s also a learning experience. You see what it takes to be there every day. I think it’s good for me to have a full season under my belt in Hamilton. It’s a plus. “I just want to show that I’m comfortable playing with these guys, and I can skate and shoot and battle with all these guys. I’m at the point in my career where you’re not nervous. You know where you belong, and we all know where we belong,” added the 24-year-old rearguard, who played three games with the Canadiens in 2012-13, but hasn’t played with the big club since. “The competition will be good. It will push us to see what we can take.” While the fight for spots on the Habs’ defense corps might be friendly in nature, it’s likely to be fierce, too. That’s something Beaulieu made perfectly clear on Thursday. “We all bring something different to the table, and we all have the same assets at the same time. We’re all young. We’re hungry, but it’s going to be about who wants it more,” explained Beaulieu, who believes his first postseason experience offered up invaluable lessons that will serve him well at training camp this time around. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy. I’m close with both of those guys, but we’re fighting for a job now. I want to play in the NHL, and I want to prove I want the job. Tinner and I are really tight and we go way back, but it’s a job, and we both want it. Sometimes, you’ve got to put friendship aside and you’ve just got to go to war.” That being said, let the battle begin. Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

The Last Word: Chad Johnson

Posted on 17 September 2014 | Comments Off

One of the NFL’s most productive and flamboyant receivers of the past decade, Chad Johnson has a knack for standing out from the crowd. The architect behind some of football’s most memorable touchdown celebrations over the years, the man who once legally changed his last name to “Ochocinco” has unsurprisingly become one of the most followed athletes on Twitter thanks to his unfiltered tweets and unmatched ability to engage with fans. We caught up with the 36-year-old during his first CFL season in Montreal to learn more about the Als’ marquee wideout. You’ve now been in our city for a little while now. Other than McDonalds, Starbucks, and cigar lounges, what do you like most about Montreal? CHAD JOHNSON: There are so many cool places here. I go to the House of Jazz all the time. I love the French toast that they serve at L’Avenue on Mount-Royal. They won’t give me the recipe, so I have to keep going back. I like Burger Bar on Crescent. I love the food at Les 3 Brasseurs. I go to bed at 9:30 every night so I do the same routine over and over. When I was in Cincinnati, New England and Miami, I did the same things all the time: jazz, cigars, Starbucks and a couple of restaurants. We saw you at the Bell Centre for a playoff game this spring. How big of a hockey fan are you? CJ: I go see the Florida Panthers all the time when I’m in Miami. From what I’ve heard, there’s a bit of a difference in Montreal. (laughs) You’ve played in some huge stadiums in front of wild fans during your time in the NFL. How does the atmosphere at the Bell Centre compare? CJ: The atmosphere reminded me of being at a soccer game in Europe. Even though the Bell Centre is much smaller, the energy was unreal. Maybe it was because it was a playoff game. I don’t know if it’s like that all the time, but it was amazing to see. Have you had the chance to meet any Canadiens players? CJ: I became friends with P.K. Subban. I recently invited him to go for breakfast, but after seeing the contract he got, he’ll be the one paying! (laughs) I haven’t had a chance to meet other players because I’ve been focused on football since I’ve been in town. We’ve seen what you can do on a football field, a soccer pitch, a dance floor and even on a bull, but how would you fare on the ice? CJ: I could probably roller skate really well. I don’t know how that equates to skating on ice because I’ve never been on the ice in my life. You were part of a generation of wide receivers with larger-than-life personalities – you, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson. Do you think we’ll ever see another golden age of wideouts like the one from the early 2000s? CJ: No, because everything has shifted. It seems like the defensive backs have taken over the spotlight of entertainment. If you pay attention to today’s NFL, the defensive backs are very boisterous, very loud. In my 11 years in the league, there weren’t any DBs who talked like Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Now they do and the receivers are quiet. It’s cool, but I wish they were around when I was playing. It would have been fun. You’re back in pro football this year after being out of it for the past two seasons. What did you learn during your time away from the spotlight? CJ: I can’t even put in words what I’ve learned. It’s been one huge lesson. I think that if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have learned anything. It was a rough road, but it turned around for the better. Now I’m back enjoying life like always. You’re one of the most active and entertaining athletes on Twitter and have been for a few years. When you first signed up, is that what you were expecting to come from your @ochocinco account? CJ: Yes, because I’m interesting. I have a voice. I enjoy Twitter because it takes out the middle man, the media. The media controls everything, especially the perception of the individuals. They’re allowed to view you, but the media controls how the public views you. Now they can’t. If you want to know about me, what I’m saying, how I act or how I am, you just follow me on Twitter. I like it a lot. How often have you had to apologize for something you tweeted? CJ: Never, and I wouldn’t. That’s another thing about me: I never bite my tongue. I never have. I’m very, very savvy when it comes to the media and what I say. And the things I say, I’ve always been crazy. I’ve been crazy since Day 1 (laughs). I’m not fake; there’s no in-between. What you see is what you get and that’s how I’ve always been. What’s the most outrageous request you’ve received on Twitter? CJ: (laughs) I receive all types of crazy stuff. Nothing is really outrageous anymore. Between us, how many of your Als teammates have asked for your autograph since you joined the team? CJ: (laughs) A couple of them. That’s funny. Three downs, bigger balls, “rouges” – what’s been the hardest thing to adapt to coming to the CFL? CJ: I’ve got it down to a tee. I’m just enjoying playing football now. I’m learning along the way and I’m just trying to be the best Chad I can be to help the team. Who’s the fiercest defensive player you’ve faced? CJ: Sean Taylor, rest in peace. He was a safety, hitting like a linebacker and with the speed of a receiver. He was ridiculous, going sideline to sideline. He was unbelievable. Which NFL players do you enjoy watching the most as a fan? CJ: Everybody, honestly. I really like to watch the defensive backs because they’re so boisterous and outlandish now that they have to back it all up, and that’s not easy. Follow Chad @ochocinco on Twitter, or head to to keep tabs on the Als all season long. This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 28 No. 6.

64 players to attend the Montreal Canadiens Training Camp

Posted on 16 September 2014 | Comments Off

PRESS RELEASE MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens announced Tuesday that 64 players will participate in the 2014-15 training camp. Players will report for physicals and medical exams at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Thursday, September 18. The first on-ice session will take place at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday, September 19, at 10 a.m. The list of players invited to training camp includes 6 goaltenders, 22 defensemen and 36 forwards. FORWARDS ANDRIGHETTO, Sven BOURNIVAL, Michaël BOURQUE, Rene BOWMAN, Drayson BOZON, Tim BRACE, Riley CARR, Daniel CRISP, Connor DE LA ROSE, Jacob DESHARNAIS, David DOWELL, Jake DUMONT, Gabriel EBERLE, Tanner ELLER, Lars FOURNIER, Stefan GALCHENYUK, Alex GALLAGHER, Brendan GILL, Sahir GRÉGOIRE, Jeremy HENSICK, T.J. HOLLAND, Patrick HUDON, Charles MALHOTRA, Manny McCARRON, Michael MOEN, Travis MOMESSO, Stefano NEVINS, Jack PACIORETTY, Max PARENTEAU, Pierre-Alexandre PLEKANEC, Tomas PRUST, Brandon SCHERBAK, Nikita SEKAC, Jiri SORKIN, Nick THOMAS, Christian WEISE, Dale DEFENSEMEN BAKER, Justin BEAULIEU, Nathan BENNETT, Mac BOUILLON, Francis CHOUINARD, Joel DIETZ, Darren DREWISKE, Davis ELLIS, Morgan EMELIN, Alexei FINLEY, Joe GILBERT, Tom MAKOWSKI, David MARKOV, Andrei NYGREN, Magnus PATERYN, Greg SHEA, Bobby SUBBAN, P.K. THROWER, Dalton TINORDI, Jarred WARDLEY, Evan WEAVER, Mike YUEN, Zach GOALIES BUDAJ, Peter CONDON, Michael FUCALE, Zachary MacDONALD, Joey PRICE, Carey TOKARSKI, Dustin Rookie Camp The Canadiens completed their rookie camp today and 31 of the 44 players attending have been invited to the main camp. See below the list of 13 players who will be returning to their respective team. Daniel Audette (Sherbrooke – QMJHL) Philippe Gadoury (Halifax – QMJHL) Alexandre Goulet (Charlottetown – QMJHL) Matthew Highmore (Saint John – QMJHL) Tyler Hill (Ottawa – OHL) Bokondji Imana (Baie-Comeau – QMJHL) Matt Schmalz (Sudbury – OHL) Charles-David Beaudoin (Drummondville – QMJHL) Gianluca Curcuruto (Plymouth – OHL) Nikolas Koberstein (Sioux Falls – USHL) Brett Lernout (Swift Current – WHL) Hayden Hawkey (Omaha – USHL) Jordan Papirny (Brandon – WHL) Practices opened to the public Canadiens fans are invited to attend all practices at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. Scrimmages will take place from September 19-21. A detailed schedule will be available at the Bell Sports Complex. Team Red vs Team White at Bell Centre In preparation for the team’s preseason schedule, the Canadiens and Canadian Tire are pleased to invite all fans to attend the Canadian Tire Red vs White intra-squad game on Monday, September 22, 2014 at the Bell Centre. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. with the Bell Centre doors to open at 5:30 p.m. Media Availability Players at camp, as well as head coach Michel Therrien, will be available to the media following practice sessions (which include an off-ice conditioning), at the Bell Sports Complex. A media opportunity will take place on the first day of camp on September 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pausing to reflect

Posted on 16 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – After going all-out for the last five days at the Bell Sports Complex, players were quick to put their Canadiens Rookie Camp experience into perspective. Minutes after Team White registered a 5-0 victory over Team Red on Tuesday afternoon in the camp’s third and final scrimmage in as many days, prospects and invitees wasted little time sharing their thoughts on how they fared with coveted training camp spots up for grabs. “It was exciting being a part of Rookie Camp. I was in Saskatoon getting ready for it. I felt sick the first three days, though,” offered Nikita Scherbak, who took part in his first scrimmage on Tuesday after being sidelined with a flu virus for several days. “It was tough to watch the guys all week. I was walking around, and they were all skating and practicing and I wasn’t feeling good about it. I felt frustrated. “I felt good out on the ice, though, but my nose was bothering me. It was tough to breathe after 20 seconds,” added the 18-year-old, who was selected 26th overall by the Canadiens in 2014. “This was a great experience. I had the chance to talk to Alexei Emelin a lot in the locker room on Monday, and Alex Galchenyuk also. I like to speak Russian with the other guys. They support me. It’s good.” Like Scherbak, Daniel Audette also enjoyed the opportunity to go up against some of the organization’s top young guns steadily climbing up the Canadiens’ depth chart. “It started out a little bit tough, but I picked things up as camp went on. I picked up momentum and got used to the speed out there. I felt more comfortable on Tuesday, and I think it went well,” offered Audette, who was selected 147th overall by the Canadiens in June. “I really took note of the maturity level of the pro guys, and just how hard they work. They work extra hard in practice. I’ll take that back to Sherbrooke with me, and put those lessons intro practice. “I could see that I need to get bigger physically, and get stronger. You can always improve your speed, too. I think every player has things to improve upon,” continued Audette, who posted 21 goals and 76 points in 68 games for the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix in 2013-14. “Over the course of the week, I spent some time talking to Francis Bouillon. He played with my dad, Donald. We worked out a little bit together, too.” While Audette opened plenty of eyes during Tuesday’s scrimmage with his patience and creativity, Christian Thomas also impressed onlookers by scoring in his second consecutive game. “I definitely have a lot more confidence out there, especially being one of the older guys. I know what to expect. I know how tough it is after all of the physical testing,” mentioned Thomas, who registered 11 goals and 27 points in 55 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs last season. “It’s definitely a lot easier when you play a simple game. I think that’s what they’re looking for, too. Every player is here for a specific reason, and I try to focus on that and do it the best that I can. “Going forward, I’m just going to worry about what I do on the ice and just play the best that I can,” added the Toronto native, who was drafted 40th overall by the New York Rangers in 2010. “I want to show the guys upstairs what I can do, and let them know that I’m ready to play.” Thomas’ linemate, Nick Sorkin, also closed out Rookie Camp on a high note, chipping in with a goal for Team White. “College is just kind of a different game, so it takes a little time to get used to the game at this level. Everyone is better, stronger, faster, and they play their position a lot better. I really worked hard this summer, training, working on my skating. I’m just glad that the hard work paid off,” confided Sorkin, who signed a professional tryout contract with the Bulldogs in March after wrapping up a four-year stint at the University of New Hampshire. “I kind of have a big frame, and if I can use that in the corners and when it comes to positioning, I think that would definitely help,” added the 23-year-old left-winger, who suited up for nine games with Hamilton in 2013-14. “Goalies at this level are better. I need to keep working on my release and shot. Speed is another important aspect. I’ve been working really hard on my stride. If I can figure those things out, it should all kind of come together.” That’s something Tim Bozon is banking on, too. “I think there are always things that we can improve upon. Camp was all about working hard, going to the net, forechecking and backchecking. It’s tough to find chemistry on the ice and to make nice plays, but the important thing is to work hard and show the organization that we want it. That’s what I tried to do,” offered Bozon, whose remarkable recovery from a bout with Neisseria meningitis in March continues to serve as a source of inspiration for people around the globe. “If I move on to main camp, I think there will definitely be more opportunities for me to show my value. I really wanted to work hard during the final scrimmage. That was important to me.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Abundance of riches

Posted on 15 September 2014 | Comments Off

LAVAL-SUR-LE-LAC – There will be no shortage of leadership inside the Canadiens’ locker room in 2014-15. On Monday, the Habs’ brass kicked off the club’s annual golf tournament at Club de golf Laval-sur-le-Lac by naming four alternate captains for the upcoming season, assigning coveted A’s to veterans Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec, and young guns Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. Markov and Plekanec will sport a letter on their jerseys for the duration of the season, while Subban and Pacioretty will alternate wearing letters at home and on the road throughout the year, switching duties at the 41-game mark in January. The move marked another critical step in the transition general manager Marc Bergevin first expanded upon last June after the Canadiens’ deepest postseason run since 1993 came to a close in the Eastern Conference Final. “We see the move as a transition in our leadership group. We want to give players an opportunity to express themselves more. What I saw over the course of my first two seasons in Montreal is young guys pushing to up their roles and take on more responsibility,” offered Bergevin, who addressed the media adjacent to the 18th green immediately following the announcement. “When Michel [Therrien] and I sat down to talk about it, we decided that with the group we have, this was the best course of action. More and more of these decisions are being left to the organization and to management. That’s what we decided to do.” Confident in the decision to not go the conventional route by naming a captain and two assistants, Bergevin is adamant that each of the players given added responsibilities is up to the challenge, and brings a variety of intangibles to the table that made them top notch candidates for the job. “Older veterans like Marky and Pleky have their own way of leading. P.K. and Max are young guys with a lot of energy. We see that the team belongs to that group now, and we’ll see where it will take us. I’m comfortable with the decision,” stressed Bergevin, indicating that the move was a one-year decision that ultimately would be re-evaluated next summer. “Andrei has been here for long time. He already has a letter on his jersey. He’s a guy who leads by example. For his part, Plekanec is very mature. Those guys bring structure. In two seasons, I’ve also seen P.K. grow in maturity. It’s the same thing for Pacioretty.” Like Bergevin, Therrien has no concerns about the choice to move ahead with his new leadership structure, one that, according to the Habs’ bench boss, extends well-beyond the four players singled out on Monday. “We talked about it a lot and came to the conclusion that there were a lot of good candidates. We believe that the young corps of veterans should be given an opportunity to show their leadership capabilities. We’re going to focus on that. They’re well-surrounded with guys like Markov and Plekanec, and we can’t forget about Carey Price. He’s a part of that young leadership group. If the league would’ve allowed us to give him a letter, he would’ve been considered. We have some veteran guys like Manny Malhotra, too. He’s a good leader. So, when it comes to leadership, I’m not worried at all. It’s a transition. We’re going to work with those guys. That’s going to be our focus,” offered Therrien, who stressed the importance of making the announcement publically prior to the start of training camp in order to avoid inevitable distractions. “I also don’t see this move as an audition [for the role of captain]. I see it more as they’re ready to take on more responsibility. We don’t want to put pressure on anyone’s shoulders,” added Therrien. “Our young leaders have made big strides over the last two years. We want to make sure that they continue to make those strides.” Fresh off signing a lucrative long-term deal back in early August that will keep him in bleu-blanc-rouge through the 2021-22 season, Subban was pleased to be given the tap on the shoulder heading into his fifth full NHL season. The 25-year-old rearguard insists he’s excited to assume a mentorship role for the bevy of young guns steadily making their way up the Canadiens’ depth chart, and he doesn’t plan on going about things any differently in the process. “We have young guys like Beaulieu, Tinordi, Galchenyuk and Gallagher on our team that are going to have to look up to somebody. I’m happy to be a part of that group. I’m happy to provide those guys with some experience and some knowledge of being in the league for a little bit. At the end of the day, I want to be the best teammate I can be,” offered Subban, who also singled out the likes of Mike Weaver, Travis Moen, Lars Eller and Dale Weise as important pieces to the leadership puzzle. “To be put in a leadership position gives you that opportunity to also be that type of figure in terms of a teacher. But, having a letter on your jersey shouldn’t change your outlook on things. It just means that there’s more of an expectation for you and more responsibility. It holds a player accountable and makes them better.” Pacioretty shared similar thoughts on Monday, stressing the importance of staying true to the values that earned him a letter for a period of time last season, and again on a more permanent basis this year. “I want to be myself. I think it’s a step in the right direction for me. They’re giving this opportunity to me for a reason. I’ll only change a few small things, but I want to stay myself,” explained Pacioretty, who doesn’t plan on putting any additional pressure on himself in his new role. “The guys will look to me a little bit more on the ice and off it, too. When the time is right, I’ll assume my role. I only have to do things a little bit better, without changing too much.” If young guns like Subban and Pacioretty weren’t feeling any added weight on their shoulders following their appointments, neither were their veteran counterparts. “I don’t feel any additional pressure. I’ve spent nine years with the organization, and I’m the same guy I was when I arrived here all those years ago. I just have a little bit more experience. I think our team has excellent chemistry,” confided Markov, who has served as the Canadiens’ assistant captain for years. “Every player on the team has to show their leadership capabilities if we want to have success. Every player has to give their best for the team. That’s how I see it.” That’s how Plekanec sees things, too. “You shouldn’t really make a big deal out of the fact that there’s no captain. There are so many leaders in the room. There are young guys who will be there when we need them,” offered the 31-year-old pivot, who, like Pacioretty, sported a letter for the Canadiens at times last season, and served as captain for his native Czech Republic at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “I think with all the changes that took place this summer, it’s an excellent decision on the part of the organization. We’re comfortable with it.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Growing stronger

Posted on 14 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – After coming up a little bit short in the fitness department during his last trip to La Belle Province back in early July, Mac Bennett returned to his alma mater with a plan. “I had my exit meeting at Development Camp [in Montreal] earlier this summer. They asked me how I thought things went. I said – “Well, I’m strong, but I’m out of shape.” They said – “You’re right. That’s exactly what we were thinking, too.” I told them that I was going to go back to Ann Arbor and get back in shape in terms of my cardio,” offered Bennett, a University of Michigan grad, who is making his first appearance at the Canadiens’ Rookie Camp after signing a two-year entry-level contract back on March 26. “I knew I had to pick my cardio up, so we put a little bit more into the program. I was running more. I was skating more,” added the 23-year-old rearguard, a former two-year captain at Michigan, who finished his four-year collegiate career in March with 14 goals and 65 points in 136 career games. “Right now, I think I’m in the best shape of my life.” With any fitness concerns now squarely in the rear view mirror, Bennett is focused on absorbing as much information as possible over the course of the next three days, while displaying the qualities that earned him one accolade after another during his time with the Wolverines. “I’m just trying to soak everything up and take things one day at a time. It’s my first year as a pro, and everything is just kind of a learning experience. If I can take it one day at a time, I’ll be good,” mentioned Bennett, who is excited at the prospect of suiting up for the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15. “I want to showcase my skating. That’s my best ability. I think that’s the reason why I’m here. I just have to make sure that every time I’m out on the ice, I’m moving my feet.” Despite the inevitable pressures that players might place on themselves during their inaugural pro camp experience, Bennett’s calm and cool demeanor shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Narragansett, RI native has received plenty of good advice from former teammates and coaches at Michigan, all of which he’s trying to put into practice at the Bell Sports Complex. “I’m really close with [former Michigan defenseman and current Habs prospect] Greg Pateryn. He’s just told me to play my game. He knows that I can skate and make that good first pass. He told me not to do anything that I’m not normally used to doing. He told me to just go out and play my game, and everything will fall into place,” offered Bennett, who was drafted 79th overall by the Canadiens in 2009. “I saw [Michigan head coach] Red Berenson a few times a week in Ann Arbor, and he told me to do the same thing I did during my time at Michigan, and to play like I’m still wearing the ‘C’. He said – “If you do all the right things, you’ll do o.k.” While Bennett has made significant progress over the years, he knows full well that there’s still room for improvement, particularly when it comes to upping his physical game. “[Canadiens director of player development] Martin Lapointe wants me to be a little bit grittier. I think especially as this last season went on, I did that more and more,” stressed Bennett, who registered a plus-12 differential and was named to the All-Big Ten second team in 2013-14. “When I got drafted, I was maybe 180 pounds soaking wet. I’m almost 200 pounds right now, so I’ve got to be able to throw that around a little bit.” Bennett will undoubtedly get his chance to do just that in the AHL come early October. “We’re going to have a pretty solid defense corps in Hamilton. From what I’ve seen, everyone can play, everyone can skate,” concluded Bennett. “It’s going to force me to raise my level of play.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

Under the spotlight

Posted on 13 September 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD -- Singled out by GM Marc Bergevin in July as prospects who could potentially crack the team’s Day 1 roster come October 8, a trio of Habs hopefuls are nevertheless taking the added attention at this year’s Canadiens rookie camp in stride. Case in point, up and coming Czech star Jiri Sekac, who wasted no time impressing onlookers at camp by putting up a 14.5 in the beep test, but hasn’t let the high score get to his head. “The tests don’t play the hockey,” explained a level-headed Sekac of his result. ”The tests are secondary, so it's really about being in shape, which is what I worked on over the entire summer -- getting myself into the best shape for this season.” But even in keeping a cool demeanor, that’s not to say the 22-year-old hasn’t felt the breeze from all the heads turning his way just two days into camp. “I’m happy with the attention because I like to get people talking,” admitted the three-year KHL pro. “I’m comfortable with it.” It’s no wonder then that despite staying grounded, Sekac would be thrilled to have the opportunity to strut his stuff for real in front of the Habs faithful this fall. “I’ve visited Montreal before and I really like the city. I love the direction the organization is going in,” explained Sekac, who signed a two-year contract with the Canadiens as a free agent over the summer. “I've actually been to the Bell Centre and when I saw the rink for the first time, it was amazing. I had never seen an arena that big so it kind of swallowed me up and I’ve wanted to be a part of this organization ever since.” Another European pro eager to cross the pond this season is Canadiens 2013 draft pick Jacob De La Rose. After playing in his native Sweden for the past two seasons, the six-foot-two 190-pounder is convinced he knows what it takes to suit up with the Habs. “Of course knowing I’ve got a shot at a spot is a really strong motivator, but I’ve got to focus on my own game first and play as well as I can because that’s all I can control,” insisted De La Rose, who racked up 13 points in 49 games in the Swedish Elite League. “It’s up to me to show the coaches how good I am while also learning as much as I can." But while Sekac and De La Rose may have racked up some serious frequent flyer miles on their journeys to the NHL so far, not all of the newcomers are arriving from quite so far away. Following his first full season in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Sven Andrighetto reported to Brossard confident for the days to come. “My play from a season ago has given me a lot of confidence,” revealed the Swiss native. “It’s my second time here and the dynamic has changed. I’m coming in with more experience now.” But like his European counterparts, Andrighetto isn’t taking anything for granted. “Nothing in life is free. You need to put in work to get where you’re going. Every guy here is coming in to make the team, so a roster spot is never going to be handed to you. You need to work for one and earn everything that comes your way.” Which is why despite finishing second among Bulldogs scorers with 44 points in 64 games a season ago, Andrighetto is well aware of which aspect of his game he needs to work on if he intends to call Montreal his permanent home. “Working with my coaches in Hamilton I learned that if I want to crack an NHL roster, I need to become a better two-way skater,” admitted the 21-year-old. “My strength has always been on offense, but improving defensively will allow me to take my game to the next level.” Steven Nechay is a writer for

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