BROSSARD – One thousand two hundred and thirty-four. That’s how many games of NHL experience separate Christian Thomas from his father, Steve.
The younger Thomas could, however, inch another step closer to his dad in that category on Saturday afternoon when the Canadiens do battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I’m very happy to be here. I’d really like to be in the lineup on Saturday. It would be incredible to play, especially against a team with my dad behind the bench,” offered Thomas, who could potentially find himself in the Habs’ lineup against a Lightning team that boasts Steve Thomas as one of its assistant coaches. “I’ve already spoken with my father. I called him yesterday when I got called up. He’s very excited for me. He wished me the best, and he’s hoping that I’ll get a shot to play against his team.”
With the absence of Brandon Prust from practice on Friday afternoon with flu-like symptoms, Thomas skated on a line with Rene Bourque and Lars Eller. Head coach Michel Therrien, however, did not confirm whether the Toronto native could take his first strides in bleu-blanc-rouge on Saturday.
“We understand the situation with respect to his father, but at the same time we’ve got a lot of guys who’ve done good work for us lately. We’re thinking of the team first and our decision will be made around the team concept,” underlined Therrien, who also saw Ryan White return to practice on Friday.
While Thomas’ playing status for Saturday is still to be determined, the Habs bench boss is adamant that he’s liked what he’s seen from the 21-year-old forward who was acquired from the New York Rangers on July 2, 2013 in exchange for Danny Kristo.
“He missed a huge chunk of time at the beginning of the season due to injury. It took him some time to get his rhythm back,” mentioned Therrien, referencing the right-winger who played four pre-season games with the Canadiens to start the year. “But, he’s among the best forwards on the Bulldogs right now, and for that reason we want to give him a chance. We want to get to know him, but also give him a chance to see how we do things in the NHL.”
In his last two games with the Bulldogs, Thomas registered one goal and three points. He’s also picked up 14 points on the year in 23 AHL games.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be called up. I think I had a good weekend in Hamilton and I’ve been working hard there,” explained Thomas, who stayed behind in Hamilton on Thursday as the Bulldogs left town on a six-game road swing. “I really didn’t know what to think. I’d already been traded this year so I was hoping that it wasn’t a two-for-two thing. But, it was great to get the call.”
Even though he is far from having the same level of playing experience as his father, one thing is certain – Christian is moving in the right direction with every call-up, every practice and with every game played.
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