Posted on 21 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL – The Ottawa Senators were simply no match for the line of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty on Saturday night. The Canadiens’ top trio accounted for two goals and five points, pacing Michel Therrien’s troops to a 4-1 victory in their final appearance before the Bell Centre faithful during the 2014 calendar year. With the win, the Habs concluded their season-long five-game home stand with eight out of a possible ten points. “We don’t have anyone with designated roles. That’s what we like about our line. We know that anyone can get in on the forecheck. We all battle down low. We all can be the guy in front of the net trying to take away the goalies’ eyes. I think it’s really hard right now for the opposition to get a good read on our line knowing that we all can fill in any given spot,” explained Pacioretty, who picked up two assists on Saturday night, helping both Gallagher and Galchenyuk light the lamp behind Senators netminder Robin Lehner. “It’s going well right now. We know we can be even better and keep expanding our game, but we like how we’ve started off as a unit.” Since the line came together on a full-time basis back on December 9 against the Vancouver Canucks, the three forwards have combined for 16 total points. While Galchenyuk has been leading the way in the goal-scoring department with four markers in his last five outings, Pacioretty has been the trio’s primary setup man, collecting six helpers during that span. “The two 20-year-olds on the line are getting tap-ins and I’m sitting there in the corner waiting for mine, so maybe they’re waiting to wrap it up for me and give it to me for Christmas. That’s what I’m hoping,” cracked Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 13 goals and 27 points during the 2014-15 campaign. “We’re all passers and we’re all shooters on our line. Obviously, I’m in a little bit of a passing streak right now. I hope to not just play on the perimeter. I hope to get my chances as well, and when the time is right, hopefully pitch in for my line with goals.” There’s little doubt that Pacioretty will be tickling the twine again in short order, but his linemates aren’t complaining about being on the receiving end of some sweet feeds from the Canadiens’ No. 67. “If Patch scores 40 goals, it doesn’t mean he can’t pass. I’ve known that for a long time. He can make great plays,” confirmed Galchenyuk, who extended his point streak to three games on Saturday night with another two-point effort against Ottawa. “I guess we’ve got to switch the table real soon because I owe him too much dinner right now. He’s still waiting on the ones I owe him for the game against Carolina.” Regardless of which of the three standouts is scoring goals or registering assists, the bottom line is that they’re all finding ways to get on the score sheet and contribute to the Canadiens’ cause. That’s essentially been the case across the rest of the lineup, too, something the Habs’ bench boss touched upon in the aftermath of his squad’s 21st win of the year. “The players know their responsibilities towards the team. They take a lot of pride in staying true to those responsibilities,” praised Therrien, whose contingent upped its record to 13-4-1 on home ice. “The line changes [dating back to December 9] are something that you have to do from time to time. Credit goes to the guys because they’ve really taken ownership of the decisions they make. They don’t ask questions and they compete. That’s what’s important.” That was apparent once again on Saturday night, as the Canadiens fought back from an early 1-0 deficit less than three minutes into the opening frame, answering right back with a Brandon Prust equalizer before pulling ahead for good on Gallagher’s tally 7:30 into the second period. “As a team, when we get the lead, we’re very comfortable,” offered Galchenyuk, who logged just under 17 minutes of ice time against Dave Cameron’s club. “We have a great goaltender in the back, good defensemen, and we know that if we kill the pressure and don’t change our game, it will be tough for the other team to stop us.” Now, the Canadiens will be looking to stick to that plan when they go up against a formidable New York Islanders squad on Tuesday night in Uniondale before enjoying a well-deserved holiday break. Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 21 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL - Here's a numerical look at Saturday's game between the Canadiens and the Senators in Montreal. 4 – Number of times the Canadiens and the Senators will do battle this season, with Saturday night’s tilt marking the first time the two teams clashed during the 2014-15 campaign. Michel Therrien’s troops won the season series by a 3-2 margin last year, winning the final three meetings between the two clubs. 36 – Number of candles on Andrei Markov’s birthday cake on Saturday as the Canadiens rearguard celebrated the special occasion by going up against the Senators. Markov has spent 14 of those birthdays as a member of the Habs. 16 – Number of wins Carey Price had amassed against the Ottawa Senators entering Saturday night’s contest at the Bell Centre, the second-most regular-season victories that the Anahim Lake, BC native had registered against any other NHL team. Price has bested the Boston Bruins on 20 occasions over the course of his career. 397 – Number of games Carey Price has tended goal for the Canadiens, including Saturday night’s contest against the Senators, tying him for third place all-time among Habs netminders alongside Ken Dryden. Next up for Price is Patrick Roy, who suited up for 551 career games with Montreal. 100 – Number of points Brandon Prust has recorded in his NHL career after the London, ON native scored his third goal of the season on Saturday night, tying the score at one in the first period with a shot that squeaked by Senators netminder Robin Lehner. 5 – Number of points Alex Galchenyuk has registered over the last three games combined, adding an assist to that tally on Saturday night against the Senators. Galchenyuk picked up the primary assist on Brendan Gallagher’s second-period tally that gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead. 14 – Number of Habs who registered at least one shot on goal on Senators netminder Robin Lehner on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, as the Canadiens did their best to make the Swede work. Only Dale Weise, David Desharnais, Tom Gilbert and Nathan Beaulieu didn’t manage to get a shot through to the Ottawa net. 5 – Number of hits Brandon Prust dished out against the Senators, matching a season-high for the Canadiens’ No. 8. Prust, who led all Habs in that category on Saturday night, previously hit that mark back on October 9 in a 2-1 shootout victory in Washington. 14:38 – Ice time logged by Lars Eller in his return to action on Saturday night after missing the Canadiens’ last five games with an upper-body injury. Eller chipped in with two shots on goal and four blocked shots. 17 – Number of days until the Canadiens will contest their next game in the friendly confines of the Bell Centre after wrapping up the home portion of their schedule for the 2014 calendar year on Saturday night. The building will remain busy during the holiday season, however, as the World Junior Hockey Championships roll into town next week. - canadiens.com
Posted on 20 December 2014 | Comments OffSENATORS (14-12-6) @ CANADIENS (20-11-2) The Canadiens welcome the Ottawa Senators to the Bell Centre on Saturday night for their final home game of 2014. Michel Therrien’s troops won’t play in front of their fans until January 6, 2015. They will battle the Islanders, the Hurricanes, the Panthers, the Devils and the Penguins during that span. Max Pacioretty, who was injured on Thursday night against the Ducks, remains a game-time decision for Saturday night’s tilt. He took part in the morning skate, and a decision on his playing status will be made following the pre-game warmup. If he isn’t ready to return, Michael Bournival could take his spot on the top line alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. Therrien featured that trio at Friday’s practice session, as Pacioretty did not take to the ice. For his part, Lars Eller will be back in action after missing two weeks with an upper-body injury. Eller will play center, while David Desharnais will play on the left side. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau will round out the line. Sven Andrighetto, who was recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday, will be in the lineup against Ottawa. Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. Meanwhile, the Senators are 3-1-1 since former head coach Paul MacLean was relieved of his duties in early December. On Friday night, Dave Cameron’s contingent posted a 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Five players registered two points in the victory, including Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson, the team’s top point-getters. Both players boast seven goals and 16 assists since the start of the 2014-15 campaign. Robin Lehner will get the start in goal for Ottawa. Lehner has won six of his 12 starts this season, posting a 2.84 goals-against average.
Posted on 19 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL CANADIENS CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS MONTREAL – 24CH, the groundbreaking documentary series chronicling the on- and off-ice evolution of the 2014-15 Montreal Canadiens season, is now available online for the first time to all members of Club 1909. Outside of Canada, members of Club 1909, the Canadiens’ loyalty program, will have full and unlimited access to 24CH. In Canada, fans will have access to all 24CH episodes on club1909.com following a six-week waiting period after the initial broadcast of an episode. Episodes 1 through 5 will be available as of Saturday, December 20, for Club 1909 members living in Canada. “We answered the call from our global fans,” said Kevin Gilmore, the Canadiens’ Chief Operating Officer. “They’ve been asking for more access to 24CH from all corners of the world. This is another example of our commitment to connecting and engaging with our fans wherever they are. We worked with our partners to make this happen for our fans. We are truly happy to make 24CH available for all." Club 1909 members watching 24CH broadcasts on Canal D, RDS, RDS2 and CTV Montreal will also benefit from a Club 1909 broadcast code that will appear during each 24CH episode, allowing them to earn points for watching 24CH episodes by entering the code into the Code Entry section of the Club 1909 portal. For fans in Canada, the program will be available as per current scheduling. 24CH Premiere, including extra footage, will continue to be available every Friday night on the Bell TV app. 24CH The Quiz will be available on demand on Bell Local (channel 1217) for Fibe TV customers, with a new episode every Saturday. Comprehensive broadcast information is available on http://www.canadiens.com/24CHenglish. Club 1909 is the Canadiens membership program launched this season aimed at uniting faithful fans around the world. Digital memberships are free and can be obtained at club1909.com.
Posted on 19 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL – In Alex Galchenyuk’s case, the best really is yet to come. Already among the league’s smoothest skaters, premiere passers and most deceptive stick handlers, the 20-year-old forward has made incredible strides since debuting with the Canadiens back in 2012-13, but he’s as hungry as ever to round out his game and achieve much, much more. “I want to improve on everything, whether it’s getting shots through, finding open areas, trying to create offensive chances, making defensive plays or just getting the puck out of the zone. I want to work on keeping things simple. It’s about improving every part of my game. I just want to be as dynamic as I can and be more of a difference-maker because I truly believe that I can be one,” stressed Galchenyuk, who boasts nine goals and 22 points in 33 games on the year. “You’ve just got to stay patient and keep working hard.” Galchenyuk’s teammates insist that mentality is what will ultimately help the Milwaukee, WI native become the type of player the Canadiens envisioned he’d turn into when they selected him third overall in 2012, a draft class he currently leads in both assists and total points. “He’s had two good years. He’s on his way to having a very good third year," offered Brendan Gallagher, who’s been Galchenyuk’s road roommate since the pair broke into the league together two-plus seasons ago. “Every day he comes to the rink, you see that attitude. There are days when he’ll get to the rink early, hit the ice and work on stuff. That’s what you want to see, a guy that wants to get better. He’s willing to work for it.” That’s certainly been apparent in Galchenyuk’s seamless transition back to his natural position at center on the Habs’ top line with Gallagher and assistant captain Max Pacioretty. Having played wing for the vast majority of his time in the NHL ranks, it didn’t take the former OHL standout long to showcase just how at ease he is in his new role, winning over 55 percent of his draws in his first four outings combined and scoring his first career hat-trick earlier in the week against the Carolina Hurricanes. “If you talk about Alex’s physical skill, he’s got everything he needs to be successful at that position. I tend to think that the best centermen are the ones who make their wingers better. Centermen are so much more involved with the play. They’re always down low in the D zone. They’re in the play a lot more because they’re in the middle of the ice. I feel like his passing abilities and his playmaking abilities are what can bring him to be an elite center,” praised Pacioretty. “His size and strength can be helpful defensively in terms of breaking out pucks and winning battles down low to be able to send us on offense. He has everything it takes. I see a huge difference between this year and last year.” Case in point has been Galchenyuk’s penchant for throwing his weight around more often this season with a purpose. After dishing out 23 hits in 48 games in his rookie season and 49 hits in 65 outings in his sophomore campaign, the Canadiens’ No. 27 already boasts 46 hits to his credit in 2014-15, good enough for fourth on the team. “This year coming in, I felt like I could be more physical or win more battles because during the summer I worked on my speed and getting stronger, and now I just feel more comfortable,” offered Galchenyuk, who who is averaging 16:33 of ice time per game through the first 10 weeks of the regular season. “I want to be able to use my frame to my advantage, win those puck battles and create scoring chances.” Pacioretty insists Galchenyuk’s offseason efforts are clearly paying dividends right now. “The fact that it looks like he’s playing with more of an edge has a lot to do with the type of shape that he’s in. You could only be so strong as an 18 or 19-year-old,” mentioned Pacioretty. “He put on some weight, so that helped him become stronger on the puck and win those battles. He knows he still has more room for improvement in that department. The best part about him is that he’s willing to accept that and try and build his game.” Feisty in his own right, Gallagher is adamant that Galchenyuk’s relentlessness is another all-important attribute that is steadily earning him more esteem around the league. “You can see that guys know who he is now. They’re going to come after him, and he stands up for himself. It’s good to see. I know they called [his brief tussle with Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in late November] a “fight” in Boston. It wasn’t much of a fight, but at least it’s out of the way,” cracked Gallagher. “He always plays hard, though. He always competes. I think that’s something that opponents have to respect about him.” While the way Galchenyuk plies his trade on the ice might have changed somewhat over the last few seasons, he remains the same outgoing and fun-loving youngster he’s always been off it. “I think he’s the same person. He’s probably a little bit more comfortable around the guys. I think we’re seeing that this year. He’s still the guy that I saw back on Day 1 at training camp when we started out together. He still likes to have fun. He still likes to joke around. He also likes to have success and he likes to work for it,” offered Gallagher, before expanding upon one aspect of Galchenyuk’s behavior that he believes has come a long way over the years. “He’s become a better roommate, too. When we were rookies, we used to have some battles. He used to get up, turn on all of the lights and pack at 1 a.m. while I was sleeping. That’s stopped. We’ve got our schedules down pretty pat right now. I think the chemistry on the road is pretty good.” It’s been pretty good inside the friendly confines of the Bell Centre, too, where Galchenyuk has thrived alongside Gallagher and Pacioretty since the line played its first full game together against the Vancouver Canucks on December 9 in Montreal. “Our end goal is to be the last team playing in June. That’s where you want to be. But, you know that it’s a process and you can’t look too far ahead. If we’re going to get there, we’re going to need guys that always compete. He’s certainly one of them,” confided Gallagher. “He’s a guy that we rely on. He’s only 20 years old, and I think he plays a very important role on our team. We need him every night. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I don’t think anyone doubts that he’s able to handle it.” And, you can definitely count the Canadiens’ leading point-getter the last three seasons running among those believers. “In terms of his role and what he wants to be, he’s going to be the franchise forward. He’s got to play in both ends. He’s got to score goals. He’s got to be a play maker. He’s got to be good defensively. He’s got to play physical,” concluded Pacioretty. “If we want him to be the player that we all expect him to be, he’s got to be the best in every area. He’s well on his way to doing that. He’s got the right mindset knowing that he has to approach it that way.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 19 December 2014 | Comments OffBROSSARD – In today’s notebook, David Desharnais switches roles, Max Pacioretty battles an injury, and McGill’s Jacob Gervais-Chouinard suits up at practice. Changing places: When the Canadiens battle the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, you can expect to see David Desharnais at a position other than center. He will begin the game playing left-wing on a line with Lars Eller and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, a move head coach Michel Therrien believes could be beneficial for all involved. “If David’s able to adapt to different positions, it’s an advantage for him. It’s an advantage for a player to be able to play center, left-wing or right-wing. Firstly, it’s great for the team as a whole, and second, it’s exceptional for a player as an individual,” stressed Therrien, who put the trio on display at practice on Friday. “It can lengthen certain players’ careers, so there are a lot of positives. That’s how I see it. We’ve got short and long-term decisions to make, so we’ll give this combination a shot against Ottawa.” While Desharnais hasn’t played wing in a while, the move certainly does peak his interest and he’s looking forward to seeing how things play out against Ottawa. “The last time I played that position was in the playoffs against Boston [in 2011]. I was playing with Gomez and Gionta back then. It didn’t last long,” offered Desharnais with a laugh. “You don’t have the puck as often when you enter the zone. Centermen feed their wingers, while wingers shoot the puck. I’m going to try to shoot the puck more. Maybe, I’ll have more opportunities to do it, too. I just need to keep bringing what I’ve been bringing. It doesn’t change my game.” Eller, who will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Saturday night for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury on December 5, believes the line has all the right ingredients to be effective. “I think we can develop some chemistry. I think we’ve got different assets to make it a successful line,” confided Eller, who has seven goals and 11 points in 28 games this season. “If we all work hard and make this work, we’ll make it a good line. I have no doubt about that.” Medical update: In his post-practice press conference, Michel Therrien indicated that Max Pacioretty was present at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday and that he is currently day-to-day with an upper-body injury. While the Canadiens’ bench boss didn’t offer up any further information on Pacioretty’s condition, it was obviously good to hear that the 26-year-old forward was on his feet after being the victim of a hard hit from Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner in Thursday night’s tilt at the Bell Centre. Needless to say, Pacioretty’s teammates know full well that being deprived of his services for any period of time is tough, but they don’t plan on letting his potential absence dictate how they go about their business. “Patch is very important to our lineup. He’s kind of our biggest offensive threat that other teams have to be aware of. Whether he’s out of the lineup or we get him back right away, it doesn’t change the way everyone needs to play. I think we’ve had that “next-man-up” mentality,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who, along with Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, had formed a stellar first-line trio since first being paired together about 10 days ago. “We still need to do all the things we talk about doing. It doesn’t change anything. We still believe in ourselves to be a good team. But, he’s a very important part of our lineup. It would be nice to have him in there.” Given Pacioretty’s extensive history of playing through pain and defying medical odds, it wouldn’t surprise Gallagher to see the New Canaan, CT native return to active duty in short order, even as soon as Saturday night. “He’s tough. If he’s good to go, he’ll be in there. Everyone knows how badly he wants to be in there. He’s going to get back out there as quickly as possible. We’re not too worried about him,” mentioned Gallagher, who boasts eight goals in 2014-15, five back of Pacioretty, the team’s top gun in the goal-scoring department. “If he’s out, guys have to step up and play the role. Whoever is in that position just has to do what’s being asked of them. We just need to keep having that four-line mentality.” Guest of honor: With Dustin Tokarski on his way to Hamilton for a two-game conditioning stint over the weekend, the Canadiens went looking for a second goaltender for Friday’s on-ice practice session. Enter Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, who is currently plying his trade for the McGill Redmen. “I was in Sherbrooke on Thursday night at the Phoenix game when I got the call. After the game, I made the trip to Montreal and I slept at my apartment because I had to head to the rink early to pick up my equipment,” offered the former QMJHL goaltender, who played for the Val d’Or Foreurs, Rimouski Oceanic and the Phoenix before joining the Redmen in 2013-14. “I’d been off for seven days, so it was good to get back to work. I had a lot of fun out there. I got some good shots on goal. The guys are fast and they’re all in great shape.” It was an experience the 22-year-old likely won’t soon forget, particularly because Michel Therrien’s troops made him feel right at home. “They’re real pros at this level,” explained Chouinard, who played three games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2012-13 while on an amateur try-out with the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate. “All the guys came over to introduce themselves. I got a warm welcome.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 19 December 2014 | Comments OffPRESS RELEASE MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, announced on Friday the signing of 2014 third round pick Brett Lernout to a three-year, entry level contract (2015-16 to 2017-18). Lernout is leading the defenseman of his team with eight goals and 18 points in 34 games this season with WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. The 6’4’’ and 203 lbs defenseman was assessed 36 penalty minutes and ranks sixth on the Broncos with six powerplay goals. A native of Winnipeg, Lernout has collected 43 points (17 goals and 26 assists) in 173 career games in junior since his WHL debut in 2011-12 with the Saskatoon Blades. He totals 187 penalty minutes. The 19-year old defenseman was selected in the third round, 73th overall by the Canadiens at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He participated in his first development camp with the Canadiens in last July.
Posted on 19 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL – The Canadiens put up a solid effort against the NHL’s top team on Thursday, but in the end fell just short. Outhitting, outshooting, and even outdrawing their opponents in the face-off circle, the Habs outplayed the Ducks in nearly every stat column except the one which mattered most – goals scored. “We played a good game. We competed. I liked the work ethic a lot of our guys showed out there. That’s what we always ask for,” commented Michel Therrien following a game which was never more than one goal out of reach. “When you work hard, you’re always giving yourself a chance to win, even if we didn’t tonight. The guys played really well tonight regardless of the result.” It was a familiar scene at the Bell Centre with solid goaltending making the difference, only this time the winning netminder wasn’t wearing the CH on his chest. “Their goalie was excellent,” continued Therrien of Anaheim keeper Frederik Andersen, who had a shutout bid going until early in the third when a David Desharnais one-timer put the Habs on the board. “We had good scoring chances on him and got back into the game, but that second goal really hurt us.” Matt Beleskey’s eventual game-winner would come just over three minutes after Desharnais’ equalizer, capping the night’s scoring in a tight-checking affair. “They’re a pretty good team and they played pretty well tonight,” admitted Carey Price, who nevertheless stopped 21 of 23 Anaheim shots. “We didn’t generate a whole lot in the third and they capitalized on the one opportunity they had so we’re just going to have to move forward from this one.” Looking for the team’s ninth comeback win this season trailing 2-1 with 11:27 left in the third, the Habs were notably without the services of the team’s leading goalscorer in Max Pacioretty as the 26-year-old forward left the ice following a hard hit from Clayton Stoner. “Obviously he’s a big part of our hockey club,” offered Price of the Canadiens’ assistant captain who was later sent to the hospital as a precautionary measure. “He’s one of the guys we look to in those situations at the end of the game so not being able to put him out there was definitely tough.” Likewise, Pacioretty’s longtime linemate and friend Desharnais admitted the outcome may have been different with the New Canaan, CT native on the ice. “It was weird to see Max go down like that,” explained the 28-year-old center. “It makes you realize how big of a leader he is for this team.” As a 14-year NHL veteran meanwhile, Andrei Markov expects Thursday’s setback to instead become a source of motivation heading into Saturday’s final home game of 2014 against the Senators before the Habs close out the year on the road with stops in Uniondale, Carolina and Florida. “That’s hockey, sometimes these things happen,” acknowledged the Russian defenseman, who led the Canadiens with 26:36 of ice time while also picking up an assist on Desharnais’ goal. “We need to learn from them and come out hungrier and better next game.” Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
Posted on 19 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL - Here's a numerical look at Thursday's game between the Canadiens and the Ducks in Montreal. 10 – Rank Saku Koivu occupies among the Canadiens’ all-time scoring leaders. With 641 career points in Montreal, Koivu is ahead of a number of Habs legends, including Elmer Lach, Mats Naslund and Dickie Moore. 70.5 – Percentage of career games Saku Koivu has played with the Canadiens, suiting up 792 times with the Habs in 1,124 games played. 3:47 – Time, in minutes, of the ovation Saku Koivu received from the Montreal crowd when the former Habs captain stepped back onto Bell Centre ice in a Canadiens uniform for the first time since 2009. 141 – Number of games Rene Bourque played with the Canadiens since 2012, before being traded to Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Bryan Allen on November 20, 2014. In the 12 games leading up to Thursday’s first encounter against his former team, Bourque has registered one goal and three assists. 1:28 – Average ice time, in minutes, for Michael Bournival and Eric Tangradi during the first period, as the two forwards notably spent a 2:43 shift together thanks to a pair of icing calls. 6 – Number of hits dished out by Alexei Emelin on Thursday night, as the Russian defenseman found his checking touch against the Ducks after being kept off the scoresheet in that category opposite the Hurricanes on Tuesday. 23 – Number of NHL teams against which David Desharnais has now scored at least one goal, adding the Ducks to that list with a one-timer to knot things up early in the third. 54 – Percentage of career points Andrei Markov has racked up on the power play after the veteran defenseman picked up his 248th with the man advantage while setting up the Desharnais equalizer. 2 – Number of career fights between Brandon Prust and Clayton Stoner after the pair of heavyweights squared off on Thursday following a third-period hit from the latter which sent Max Pacioretty to the dressing room for the remainder of the evening. 1 – Number of home games remaining in 2014 as the Habs now host the Sens on Saturday before closing out the first half of the decade on the road in New York, Carolina and Florida. - canadiens.com
Posted on 18 December 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL – Saku Koivu and his family might reside in Southern California, but the longtime Habs captain insists Montreal will always be home. Hours before taking part in a pre-game ceremony being held to honor his on and off-ice achievements over the course of an 18-year NHL playing career, the recently retired Koivu reminisced about returning to a city that embraced him for well over a decade until his departure for Anaheim in July 2009. “It’s really, really great to be back here. It’s more emotional than probably ever before. It was always easier to focus on the game. You had your teammates, so you weren’t by yourself. I know there’s a game, but the focus is on me. In some ways, I don’t feel comfortable with that,” confided Koivu, who will surely be given a remarkable ovation when he’s presented to the fans on Thursday night prior to the tilt between the Canadiens and the Anaheim Ducks at the Bell Centre. “For some reason, this feels right, that I get to see you at least one more time as an ex-player. I went through most of my career here in Montreal. Most of the great memories and the tough memories I have are from here, so it all makes sense.” It marks the third time Koivu has returned to his old stomping grounds since making the move to Orange County, but the 40-year-old father of two knows full well that this visit will be particularly unique in nature. “It’s an amazing honor. I feel so privileged that they’re going to have a night like that for me. It’s really humbling, not just for me, but for my family and my parents. I was here twice as a member of the visiting team after I left, and the reaction I got from the fans was just something remarkable. It really feels good,” offered Koivu, who sported the “C” for 10 of his 14 seasons with the Canadiens. “I’m really thankful to the organization and the Molson family. I know that it doesn’t happen often, which makes it even more special.” Thursday night will also provide Koivu with the perfect opportunity to re-connect with a fan base that adopted him as one of their own over the years, especially during his lengthy battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which spanned nearly the entire length of the 2001-02 campaign. “They always made me feel that I was respected as a player and the way I played the game. What also makes me feel really humble is that I felt that I was loved. Sometimes, you think about why it happened and why they took me in. Sometimes, you can’t explain it, but there has been a really unique bond between the fans in Montreal and myself,” explained Koivu, who registered 191 goals and 641 points in 791 career regular-season games in Montreal. “The fans have shown their passion and their love and support throughout the years and it’s been amazing.” While more than five years have passed since the former Bill Masterton and King Clancy Trophy winner left town, the legacy Koivu left behind in his former hockey home is still very much on his mind. “I hope that fans and everybody in Montreal and Quebec remembers me as a great person, and as a player who gave it his all and who wore the “C” on his jersey proudly for 10 years. The way my time here went, it wasn’t all about hockey, so maybe now that I’m retired, you kind of put things in a different perspective and you see life in different ways. Beating cancer, getting the PET-scan machine [at the Montreal General Hospital], helping people that way probably means the most,” stressed Koivu. “I was also here for hockey, though, so I also hope people remember me as a player that, even though we went through some tough times early in my career, fought until the end in every game.” It’s that trademark tenacity, courage and relentlessness that undoubtedly endeared the Turku native to Montrealers, who saw a young Koivu grow up before their very eyes after arriving on the scene in his early 20’s. If the fans learned a lot from the four-time Olympian during his tenure as captain, it’s safe to say he learned many valuable lessons in return. “I think you learn through experiences. I learned to deal under pressure. I was able to kind of separate the personal Saku Koivu and the player because of the media attention that we had in Montreal. After, because of the cancer, I learned to enjoy life more, let myself forget the bad day and the bad game and let myself smile about everything,” offered Koivu. “When you get married and have kids, all of those things change you and they change your perspective on life. But, my time in Montreal really made me what I am today. I think I see and the world through better eyes. It was a city that we really loved.” One of Koivu’s early mentors in Montreal was Mr. Jean Béliveau, who taught him the importance of staying true to oneself. That’s a message Koivu would give to any up-and-coming leader in the game today. “When I first became captain here, Monsieur Béliveau came to me and said: ‘You’re going to be fine. You don’t have to change. You were selected because of who you are’,” recalled Koivu. “Certain players and personalities fit that role and they’re comfortable with it. Whoever will be the next captain here, I would say that you have to be yourself. In a team sport, you have to care for your teammates and care for the staff. When you show that, you’re going to be o.k.” That’s exactly what Koivu did with the bleu-blanc-rouge, and the community remains grateful for his efforts. “When we first landed pm Wednesday night, and on the way from the airport to the hotel, everything was so familiar. It was a bit of a surprise when we came from California. We walked in the streets and people recognize you. You kind of forget that,” concluded Koivu. “The fans and the people here have really welcomed us warmly, wishing us all the best and saying good luck. It’s like coming home.” Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.