BROSSARD – Centering a forward line for the Canadiens is a rare privilege for any offensively-minded hockey player.
That’s one side of the coin. The other, of course, is the pressure that comes with playing a pivotal role in a city that lives for hockey. With that pressure comes expectations that can either propel a player to greatness or rip him apart at the seams. It doesn’t just take a good skating stride or quick hands in the faceoff circle for a centerman to “make it” in Montreal. He’ll need a good head on his shoulders, too.
As the team’s longest-tenured pivot, Tomas Plekanec understands that Montreal is revved up for the start of another hockey season. While he won’t make any predictions on the 2013-14 campaign before the first puck is dropped, he is feeling good about the Habs’ roster heading into training camp.
“[As a team,] we can skate well, we have skilled players and we added some toughness [during the offseason with the addition of Douglas Murray and George Parros],” offered Plekanec. “This team can do everything.”
Having been the team’s go-to guy down in the middle in all situations in recent years, Plekanec is ready to be head coach Michel Therrien’s first choice in clutch situations once again, even if the Habs already boast a bevy of experienced centermen in the likes of Daniel Briere, Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Ryan White.
“I’ve been here a long time. I know the role I have,” confirmed the eight-year NHL veteran.
On the other end of the spectrum, after a challenging year with the Bulldogs, centerman Louis Leblanc is looking to play his way into contention for a full-time roster spot with the Habs, whether down the middle or on the wing.
“It’s another opportunity for me to show where I’ve improved,” said Leblanc, who spent a great deal of time on the ice during the offseason. “I changed my routine a bit. [I] went to train in Toronto and skated a lot more than I usually would.”
Slowed down by injury during the most recent AHL campaign, Leblanc returned to his hometown with a renewed sense of confidence and a year’s worth of tough lessons learned.
Being one year older – and one year wiser – means a lot to Leblanc, who, by his own admission, struggled at times in the minors last year. This time around, he knows that he’ll have to show some toughness, both physically and mentally, in order to be asked to suit up alongside a veteran like Plekanec in Montreal.
“I’ve worked hard on my game; I can’t wait for the season to start,” confirmed Leblanc.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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