“Lars will probably be playing with Gomez and Gionta. They’ve been practicing together for a few days now and it’s a line combination we’re looking to test out. It’ll be the first real chance that we’ll have to see him play,” explained head coach Jacques Martin of the young Dane. “Like I’ve often said, when it comes to our top two lines, it’s all about pairs. Whether it’s Gomez and Gionta or Cammalleri and Plekanec, the third player on those lines can always vary.”
For Eller, this represents the opportunity to make a statement to both fans and the Habs coaching staff alike of what he’s capable of contributing come Friday night.
“I’m aiming to contribute offensively in Friday’s game. I want to play smart hockey with and without the puck and make sure I score some goals if the chance comes my way,” said Eller. “I’ll be talking more strategy with Gomez and Gionta on Friday, but right now we’ve all just been playing instinctively with one another and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
Being the biggest player on his line, it will likely fall upon Eller to up his physical game against Ottawa. Luckily, that lends itself perfectly to his rugged style.
“I always try to bring a physical edge to my game,” pointed out the 6-foot-2 winger. “But that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m playing with two smaller guys. I’ll always lay down a hit whenever the chance presents itself.”
While Eller may still have yet to play a game in a Habs uniform, he’s already earned himself a few fans in his new dressing room.
“He’s a great young player with a lot of talent. Scott and I have been training with him for a couple of days now and it’s been going well,” explained Gionta. “At the moment it’s still a matter of using the rest of those preseason games to work out the best possible line combinations. The young guys are all really looking forward to those games as a proving ground to show us all what they can do.”
So will Eller be nervous when he finally steps out onto the ice of the Bell Centre in front of a packed house?
“Of course I’ll be nervous,” admitted Eller. “But that’s a good thing. I play my best hockey when I get worked up. Not too much, mind you, but just enough.”
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.
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