PITTSBURGH – Yannick Weber has logged just under 18 total minutes of ice time for the Canadiens this season, but on Wednesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center the 24-year-old rearguard is looking to show head coach Michel Therrien he’s worthy of more.
Weber, who last suited up for the Canadiens on March 7 in Carolina, returns to the lineup against the Penguins after spending the last 18 games on the sidelines, eight of which was due to a knee injury he suffered in his last appearance in a Habs jersey.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for me. The Penguins are a great team. The last two games didn’t yield the results we wanted against them. I’m happy to be back,” said Weber, who has seen several Hamilton Bulldog defensive call-ups come and go in recent weeks. “I’ve always been confident. I never lost my confidence. I feel very good on the ice during practices, and I’m not putting any pressure on myself.”
Neither is Therrien, who believes Weber’s consummate professionalism both on and off the ice has been exemplary since he last dressed some five-and-a-half weeks ago.
“It’s a good opportunity for him to show us how he’s capable of playing before the playoffs, so I think it’s definitely a terrific opportunity for him,” explained Therrien, who had yet to indicate who Weber would be paired with following Wednesday’s morning skate. “He’s always come to practice with a good attitude and he looks good out there at practice. We want him to bring that same intensity to the games.”
The Swiss standout plans on doing exactly that against the Eastern Conference’s top team on Wednesday night, and will rely on his quickness and mobility to counter a lineup that boasts countless offensive threats both on the front and back-ends, despite a few key injuries.
“I’m a good skater. The speed of the Penguins won't be an issue,” noted Weber, who believes that one or two shifts is all he’ll need to re-adjust to the pace of NHL action. “They’ve got a good team. They skate well and they’ve got good forwards. It’ll be important for me to be fast on my skates.”
That goes for the entire Habs lineup, to whom Therrien has preached the importance of restoring the focus that enabled the Canadiens to surprise countless naysayers throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
“We can’t keep playing the type of hockey we’ve been playing lately in order to have success out there,” noted Therrien, who will also welcome either Gabriel Dumont or Michael Blunden to the lineup against Pittsburgh. “We talked about it [Tuesday] and we’ve been practicing it; getting back to the basics that enabled us to have success throughout the season. We need more concentration and focus from the entire team and an improved level of competitiveness. That’s an ideal starting point to help increase the likelihood that we can win games.”
A consistent effort from the Habs on Wednesday night in the Steel City would go a long way towards showing Therrien that they've heard his message loud and clear.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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