After being shelved with a knee injury for the past month, Roman Hamrlik will be making his 2010-11 debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Habs’ home opener. The veteran blue-liner may have over 1,200 career games under his belt since being drafted first-overall by the Lightning in 1992, but on Wednesday night, he’s just looking to make a good first impression.
“The coaches aren’t going to play me 25 minutes a night to start off with. I’ve played a lot of games so I know what to do and hopefully I can help my teammates out tomorrow night,” described the 36-year-old defenseman. “I have to keep my shifts short, make the first pass and just focus on keeping my feet moving and playing simple out there to get my confidence going.”
Averaging over 25 minutes in ice time through the first two games of the season, Josh Gorges knows help is on the way. With Hamrlik and Andrei Markov both close to making their returns to the lineup this month, the dip in playing time won’t bother Gorges one bit.
“When you’re missing key guys who eat up a lot of minutes, it’s good to be able to step up and fill in for them. For sure when they’re ready to come back, things will change,” explained the 26-year-old blue-liner. “We’ll be better with them back in the lineup. We played well in our first two games, but we can be better. With two veterans like them, our defense can only get better.”
Another old friend will be making his Bell Centre debut this Wednesday, as Hamilton-Bulldogs-coach-turned-Lightning-bench-boss Guy Boucher returns to face off against his old organization. At least one of Boucher’s former protégés has an inside scoop on what to expect from his ex-Bulldogs boss.
“He’ll be the first guy to pat you on the back, but he isn’t easy on you; he demands that extra effort in practices and in games. He’s good at getting guys on the same page,” described former Hamilton captain Mathieu Darche, who also previously played for Boucher at McGill University. “I congratulated him after he got his first win last week– I sent him a text saying ‘Congrats, but don’t expect the same on Wednesday night!’”
As Montreal natives Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis also prepare for their homecoming against the team they grew up cheering, Habs netminder Carey Price isn’t exactly planning a warm welcome for the All-Star duo.
“Just like Pittsburgh, they have a lot of offensive weapons and we have to be on our toes,” offered Price, who kicked aside 36 of the 38 Penguins shots he faced on Saturday night. “Everyone on the team likes this type of challenge. When everyone has to be at their best, that’s when games really get interesting.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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