TAMPA BAY – With the Canadiens set to contest five games in the next nine days to close out the regular season, Peter Budaj will get the call against the Senators on Friday night in Ottawa.
The 31-year-old, who last saw game action on Mar. 24 when he backstopped the bleu-blanc-rouge to a 2-1 shootout win over the Bruins, expects the Senators to come out flying as they continue their fight for a postseason berth with precious little time remaining to achieve that objective.
“I expect nothing less than a good game from that team. They have a very tough team. They’re a proud team. They’re going to play us hard. They always do. They play hard in their building, and they come out really strong. We always have good matchups against them, so it doesn’t really matter what’s happening in the standings,” offered Budaj, who boasts a 9-8-2 record and a 2.41 GAA in 22 appearances in 2013-14. “Every player has pride. Every organization has pride. They’re five points back. You never know in hockey, so they just have to take care of their side. We don’t really focus on what they’re going to do. We’re focused on what we’re going to do in our dressing room. We’ve got to be ready. It’s going to be a battle, but we’re ready for it. We enjoy these types of games.”
Despite securing a playoff spot themselves this past Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, Budaj insists the team’s focus remains squarely on their next tilt and not on the recent past or the foreseeable future. Head coach Michel Therrien has always stressed a game-by-game approach, and the Canadiens don’t plan on deviating from it now.
“It doesn’t matter what happened on any given day in practice, what matters is what’s going to happen in the game, so you can’t really live based of memories. The win against Boston was a big win for our team, but since then we’ve played many good games. We’ve got to regroup after the game against Tampa and go out and get two points against Ottawa,” offered Budaj. “I’m excited about the start. I’m glad I get a chance to play. It’s going to be a good game. Every game against Ottawa is. We’re looking forward to it.”
Confident as ever in his ability to deliver when called upon regardless of extended periods of inactivity between starts, Budaj believes his success is a by-product of maintaining a mindset that, like his bench boss, emphasizes the here and now.
“You try to prepare the best you can every time you play. I’m glad things worked out for me in Boston, but it’s in the past. I know that I can play. I’ve done it before,” confided Budaj. “You’ve just got to be ready for your next shot, and you don’t want to think too much about what’s going to happen before or after the game. You need to stay present. Stay on the next shot. Stay on the game. That’s what you do to prepare yourself to stop the next shot.”
With precious points up for grabs and home-ice advantage still at stake, Budaj is adamant that there’s a lot on the line right now. The Canadiens’ goal as they head north is to down the Senators in their own barn, and to get back on the winning track before battling another tough opponent in the Red Wings on Saturday night in Montreal.
“We’re professionals. This isn’t the first time that we travel to play a game,” indicated Budaj, explaining that the concept of a “successful” or “unsuccessful” road trip is a thing of the past. “You can’t think about that. You need to focus on your next game. We want to look at things one game at a time.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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