MONTREAL – After a week of preparing in every way possible, all that’s left to do is drop the puck and pick up two points.
With a new coaching staff, new players and a new attitude surrounding the team, the 2012-13 edition of the Canadiens are finally ready to sink their teeth into the latest NHL campaign. Following the Habs’ open practice Saturday morning at the Bell Centre, another good piece of news trickled out of the dressing room – one that should help the Canadiens’ chances of walking away with a win in their season opener.
“I’m playing tonight and ready to go,” said Tomas Plekanec, who was initially a question mark for Saturday’s game after not playing in the team’s intra-squad scrimmage for precautionary measures. “I didn’t want to miss any games. It’s three weeks ago now that the injury happened so I’m glad to be able to get in tonight.”
Not only one of the most durable players in the Canadiens lineup, but also one of the team’s most consistent centers in recent years, Plekanec will hit the ice to face the Leafs flanked by the likes of Brian Gionta and Alex Galchenyuk.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m really excited. To be able to start our first game at home like this against the Maple Leafs – there’s really nothing better,” shared Plekanec, whose strong two-way play should serve as a benchmark for his rookie linemate. “We’ve got some fresh faces around here and a new coaching staff, so everything’s kind of new for everyone and we all want to make sure we start on the right foot. The playoff race basically starts tonight so it will be a very exciting season for us and all the fans.”
When it comes to the fresh faces added to the team over the offseason, two thirds of them will make their Habs debut tonight on a line that seems destined to pack a punch for the club. When head coach Michel Therrien talks about wanting to be a tough team to play against, the line of Colby Armstrong, Ryan White and Brandon Prust will be a big part of making that statement a reality.
“Our job is obviously to provide energy, especially with strong guys like White and Prust out there,” expressed Armstrong, a member of the Leafs in 2011-12. “At the same time I think we’ll be able to create some good chances out there offensively and be an all around hard line to play against.”
After a tough season compounded by injury, Armstrong will have the extra motivation of proving himself to his new team on Saturday night, by helping them take down his old one.
“I’m getting a second chance here and I want to make the most of it. I feel great, I feel healthy and I know what Michel expects of me and I feel comfortable within the system,” added Armstrong, who was coached by Therrien during his time with the Penguins. “I want to win bad tonight. It’s good to get a game right out of the gate against the Leafs and get things going. It’s going to be a big night for sure.”
With only a few hours left until puck drop, Michel Therrien will finally get the chance to see the team he’s spent all week preparing, in action. While it’s likely certain things may not go exactly according to plan, he’s hoping the high-pressure match-up will provide a sense of where his squad stands.
“This is the best way to start our season. A Saturday night game in Montreal against the Leafs – there’s no better way to break the ice,” said Therrien, who also underlined the style of hockey he’s hoping to see from his team. “This is going to be an emotional game tonight. We’re going to need to be able to control those emotions and make sure we make smart plays if we want to win. Our goal is to play simple and aggressive.
“This is a fresh start for everyone. Not just for us, but for all the other teams in the NHL too. With a short season like this, there are going to be a lot of surprises in the league this year,” he added. “It’s a big part of our objectives to be one of those surprises.”
The Canadiens season kicks off at 7:00 P.M. tonight at the Bell Centre.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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