MONTREAL - After playing an integral part in the Canadiens' deepest playoff run since 1993 this past spring, Lars Eller is making the most of a short summer, recharging the proverbial batteries and fine-tuning his body for his fifth full NHL campaign.
Splitting time between Montreal and his native Denmark over the last two months, the 25-year-old forward has focused his efforts on spending time with family and friends while hitting the gym hard at every opportunity.
"This summer has been a lot like the past few. Fortunately, I've been injury-free and I didn't have to go through any rehab. It's just been about training five days a week a couple of hours each morning. The rest of the time, I've been putting in as much family time as I can, making up for the time I spend away from them during the season," offered Eller, who spent about six weeks back home in Copenhagen during the offseason before recently returning to Montreal to resume his daily workouts at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. "I spent time with my wife, Julie, my one-year-old, my parents, my brothers, my cousins, basically the whole family. That's pretty much the top priority when I'm at home. I don't sit around much. We're always on the go."
That's something Eller has grown accustomed to since becoming a father 22 months ago, and he's enjoying every minute he spends with his daughter.
"My wife and I see parenthood as the biggest gift you can get. It's a huge joy being parents. We're learning a lot on the go. I have to say that it's a feeling that's hard to compare to anything else I've ever experienced," confided the Canadiens' No. 81, who registered 12 goals and 26 points in 77 regular season games in 2013-14, before finishing second in playoff scoring for the Habs with five goals and 13 points in 17 postseason tilts. "We really enjoy spending time doing activities with the little one. We go to the cottage. We go to the zoo and other places around Copenhagen. We love walking around downtown, biking and going to the beach. We're based in downtown Copenhagen, so all of the sights are just 30 minutes away."
Sightseeing aside, Eller has maintained a workout routine focused squarely on taking his already impressive physical attributes to the next level. The talented centerman fully intends on arriving at training camp in the same peak condition that earned him plenty of respect inside the locker room last September.
"I've been putting in the same time that I have all along over the last two years. I've been working on building up a more solid foundation. My routine has changed a bit, but not too much," mentioned Eller, who will hit the ice for the first time this offseason come mid-August. "It's getting to be a little bit less about reps and heavier weights. It's about tweaks here and there. Until I start skating again, I'm focused on building up my body. That's all there is to it."
Maintaining that focus was certainly made easier once Eller and the Canadiens finalized the details of a four-year contract on July 24. The two sides avoided salary arbitration in the process.
"Having the next four years settled is a big relief and big joy. In a world of uncertainty - which you live in as an NHL player - where you could be in a new place tomorrow, this is about as much security as you can get," explained Eller, whose new deal runs through the 2017-18 campaign. "A big thing for me is feeling that you have the support of the organization. I feel that. They count on you and they believe in you. That's very important to me."
As is doing everything in his power to help Michel Therrien's troops take another step forward in 2014-15.
"I'm looking forward to the same things that I always do to start a year. When you go that deep in the playoffs, it just leaves you wanting more," described Eller, who will undoubtedly be counted on to play a more prominent two-way role this season. "It's exciting in a way because the face of the team is a little bit different, so it's kind of a new identity in a way. New leaders are going to have to step up. It's going to be fun to see how we can grow together in the long run."
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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