Back where they belong

Saturday, 20.09.2008 / 4:48 PM / News
canadiens.com
Reunited for the first time in eight years, Robert Lang (left) and Alex Kovalev (far right) generated lots of excitement at the first on-ice session of training camp.
MONTREAL – With the first day behind them, the Canadiens got down to business on Saturday, lacing up their skates for the first on-ice session of the 2008 training camp.

With 52 players at his disposal, head coach Guy Carbonneau separated his troop into three groups.

Group A generated plenty of buzz as former Penguins Alex Kovalev and Robert Lang were reunited as linemates for the first time in eight years.  Much to the delight of the crowd in attendance at the Sportsplexe 4-Glaces in Pierrefonds, there were still plenty of sparks between by the pair, who were completed by Guillaume Latendresse.

While watching Lang and Kovalev renew their chemistry thrilled many, putting the duo back together wasn’t part of the original plan.

“Some guys had visa problems, so we had to juggle with some lines before our first pre-season games,” explained Carbonneau.  “I was going to play them together at some point during camp.  Now, with Lang, we can have three offensive lines.”

Though the trio looked good in practice, Kovalev, Lang and Latendresse will have to wait until Wednesday in Detroit before suiting up for their first game.  Tomas Plekanec and the Kostitsyn brothers (Group B), who formed a unit on Saturday, will hit the ice in both of the Canadiens’ first two pre-season matchups, Carbonneau said.

Latendresse’s linemates weren’t the only reason he caught people’s attention; the excellent physical form of the third-year winger had many talking.  After working hard this summer at improving his skating and dropping some pounds, Latendresse is happy with the progress he’s made and even drew praise from Habs strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Livingston after the physicals on Friday.

“I want to take control of my career and that’s why I worked so hard this summer,” said the 21-year-old, who couldn’t be happier to have older brother Olivier with him at training camp. “Before, it would take me awhile to recover after a session like this.  Now, I come off the ice and I still have lots of energy.”

Another 2005 draftee who left weight behind over the summer was goaltender Carey Price, who took 28 pounds off the scale during the off-season.  Asked to comment on his lighter backstop, a still-rejuvenated Kovalev was wishing his youth had returned to more than just his game.

“It’s a lot easier at his age,” said the veteran with a laugh.  “At 35, it definitely wasn't a walk in the park...even just to lose 10 pounds!”

Other lines of note on Saturday : captain Saku Koivu was flanked by usual left-winger Christopher Higgins and rookie Matt D’Agostini (Group A).  Training camp continues on Sunday at 11 :00 a.m. with simulated games between groups A, B, and C.

Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com