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Staying the course

Wednesday, 01.05.2013 / 9:31 AM / News
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Staying the course

MONTREAL – When it comes to supporting Carey Price in what the Canadiens hope will be a lengthy playoff run, Peter Budaj knows staying prepared is all about routines.

That approach paid dividends for Budaj during the 2012-13 regular season campaign, and it’s the same mentality the eight-year NHL veteran is taking with him into the Habs’ opening-round matchup with the Ottawa Senators.

“I don’t know why things have to change during the playoffs. I absolutely don’t agree with that,” indicated Budaj, underlining the importance of goaltenders’ sticking to what works, no matter the time of year. “I think we’ve got to look at the mistakes we made during the year, and try to even it out. It’s the same thing as when you’re playing another game during the regular season. Every game is huge, obviously, but you can’t think that way. You have to take one game at a time.”

The pair combined for the third-most wins in the league (29), guiding the Habs to a northeast division crown and home ice advantage heading into the playoffs.

If anyone knows how to take things in stride, it’s Budaj, who made the most of his 13 regular season appearances between the pipes this year. The Slovak netminder posted an impressive 8-1-1 record and a 2.29 goals-against average, complementing Price’s stellar campaign to a tee. The pair combined for the third-most wins in the league (29), guiding the Habs to a northeast division crown and home ice advantage heading into the playoffs.

Thriving in his relief role and looking to keep that momentum going against Ottawa, Budaj’s attention is squarely on doing whatever’s necessary to ensure he’s primed for duty if called upon during the NHL’s second season.

“You’ve got to keep going; keep working hard, keep getting prepared, and just be ready,” explained Budaj, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Canadiens on April 11. “I don’t change anything. I just keep going the same way. It doesn’t matter who you play against, you’ve got to prepare the same way.”

Higher stakes, up-tempo play and a noticeable increase in traffic aside, the 30-year-old is quick to point out that tending goal during the postseason is as much about staying true to your regimen as it is about matching the opposition’s intensity on the ice.

“You just want to play your game, be aggressive and just try to battle through screens,” shared Budaj, who won a career-high 31 regular season games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2006-07. “You don’t want to make major changes because that’s where the trouble happens. You just want to stay who you are and keep working hard and battle through the traffic. The other team is going to be aggressive; so is our team.”

The Habs will certainly have to up the ante against a Senators squad that afforded their opponents the second fewest goals per game (2.08) in the regular season behind starter Craig Anderson, who played alongside Budaj during their tenure together in Colorado.

While he isn’t anticipating seeing much action against the Senators, Budaj’s insatiable work ethic in practice will undoubtedly help in the Canadiens’ efforts over the course of the upcoming best-of-seven series.

“You just have to stay ready. You never know what can happen. You always have to be ready for your next shot,” explained Budaj, who has made four career postseason appearances during his time in the league. “These games are more fun. This is a fun time; it shouldn’t be stressful. Everybody wants to play in the playoffs, especially in Montreal, so we’re all excited. We’re going to do our best. We’re going to put our bodies on the line, and try to get the W.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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