Summer workhorse

Wednesday, 03.09.2014 / 12:20 PM canadiens.com

MONTREAL – While most players might put their feet up for a week or two after the season comes to an end, Tomas Plekanec instead prefers to get right back to work.

After suiting up for 81 of 82 regular season games and all 17 of the Canadiens’ postseason tilts in 2013-14, the last thing Plekanec wanted to do in June was kick back and relax.

“I took a little bit of time off from workouts and physical activity, but that lasted just three days. I need to sweat. I feel bad if I don’t sweat for a few days,” confessed the 31-year-old centerman, who spent his offseason with his wife, Lucie, and son, Matyas, back home in his native Czech Republic. “I started playing tennis and squash right away. It’s something I’ve always done. Those sports are good for hockey players. It really helps in terms of being able to react to different situations.

“When I play squash, I have to react to a ball that’s moving pretty quickly, and tennis works on your core muscles. Soccer is a big part of my summer, too,” added the nine-year NHL veteran, who racked up 20 goals and 43 points last season, before registering four goals and nine points during the playoffs. “Playing a variety of sports has been a big help over the years.”

As has maintaining an on and off-ice training routine overseas that has remained relatively consistent for the better part of Plekanec’s NHL career.

“I was back in the gym about three or four weeks after the season wrapped up, but it was a typical summer, training-wise, working off a plan [Canadiens strength and conditioning coach] Pierre Allard provided me with. The only change was that I worked with a trainer back home for a few weeks to make sure I was doing all of the exercises correctly. I added that in,” offered Plekanec, who trained alongside the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Jiri Tlusty, Radko Gudas and Tomas Kaberle in Europe. “I was back on the ice at the end of July with my former team in Kladno five times a week. It’s pretty much always been the same group. That’s the way I like to approach my summers. It’s been working for me.”

It’s safe to say Plekanec is right. Not only did the two-time Olympian surpass the 600-game mark in his NHL career in 2013-14, but he also hit the 20-goal plateau for the sixth time and was the Canadiens’ most utilized penalty killer during the regular season.

“I feel great. Obviously, I didn’t have to deal with any problems injury-wise or health-wise. That makes a big difference overall. I’m always ready to play the same role, that strong two-way game. I don’t think there will be any surprises there. I’m excited to get going,” confided Plekanec, who won 48 percent of his draws last season, and finished second on the team with a plus-11 differential alongside fellow centerman David Desharnais. “I might be getting older, but I’m gaining more and more experience every year I play in the league. You go through so many different situations every season, so you gain some perspective in terms of what’s going on around you.”

With that in mind, the talented pivot believes a capable group of young guns is ready to assume a more prominent role going forward, and that the Canadiens are clearly headed in the right direction.

“Some of the offseason changes might have been surprising for people, but that’s hockey. Things like that happen throughout the league. Young guys are getting a bigger role right off the bat, and we’ve got some guys that I know will step up and contribute to our success. They experienced that great run last year, so they know what’s ahead,” concluded Plekanec. “This team has a lot of talent. I think the real character and work ethic of the group will open the door for us to get even further. This team has it. Hopefully, we’ll show it.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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