BROSSARD – Preseason games provide players with a chance to earn a spot in the lineup on opening night. They also help make sure the guys in uniform are ready to hit the ground running when Oct. 1 finally rolls around.
While many of the 39 players still at camp will be using Friday and Saturday’s games against the Hurricanes to prove they’re NHL-ready, Josh Gorges is looking at the next week-and-a-half as an extended dress rehearsal for opening night.
“Now that most guys have gotten the first game out of the way to shake the rust off and shake the jitters out, it’s time to really focus on the details of the game,” explained the nine-year NHL veteran. “[It’s about] getting back into the structures and the systems; for defensemen, it’s about working on that gap control and battle levels, and fine-tuning power plays and penalty kills. It’s time now to start focusing on those little details.”
Despite showcasing mid-season shot blocking form in his first preseason game of the year on Monday, registering a game-high four blocks against the Bruins, Gorges was far from satisfied with the 6-3 loss to Boston. After the team’s penalty killers allowed four goals on six power play opportunities against on Monday night, it was no surprise to see Michel Therrien spend the majority of Friday’s pre-game skate focusing on shorthanded situations with his top defense pairing.
“Now is the time to take that opportunity with guys you’re potentially going to be playing with and start building that chemistry and start getting familiar with each other so when that [first] game does hit, it’s not our first time playing together,” explained Gorges, who will once again be paired with longtime defense partner, P.K. Subban, against the ‘Canes. “We’re still trying to get back into a rhythm and these preseason games are important.”
With a stretch of five games in seven nights about to kick off in Quebec City, the Habs may not have much time to work on fine-tuning at practice, but the jam-packed exhibition schedule seems to suit Gorges just fine.
“I think in order to get yourself game ready and in game shape, you have to play games,” described the Canadiens’ assistant captain. “You can practice all you want, but the intensity is not the same in practice as it is in games, no matter how hard you want to go in practice.
“I’d also definitely rather play games than practice,” he added with a laugh. “Obviously, when they’re back-to-back like this, I don’t know what it will be like tomorrow, but it’s fun playing games. We enjoy the opportunity to get out and play, and playing in Quebec City is especially fun.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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