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A big addition

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Eric Tangradi is looking forward to a fresh start in Montreal.

The 25-year-old winger, who was acquired by the Canadiens on October 5 in a trade that sent Peter Budaj and Patrick Holland to the Winnipeg Jets, hit the ice on Wednesday alongside the rest of Michel Therrien’s troops at the Bell Sports Complex after being recalled from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Tuesday evening.

Skating on the Habs’ fourth line at practice alongside Manny Malhotra and Dale Weise, it didn’t take the Philadelphia, PA native long to feel at ease in his new surroundings. That’s not surprising given that Tangradi believes he can contribute to the Canadiens’ cause from the start.

“I think the guys in the dressing room all motivate each other and they get each other to play at levels that maybe somewhere else they wouldn’t be able to reach. I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” offered Tangradi, who put up two goals and six points in 11 games during his stint in Hamilton. “When I’m playing fast and moving my feet and playing physical, I think I’m a pretty effective player. This dressing room is filled with speed, so I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to not only help out, but to develop my game as well.”

Eric Tangradi.

Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 221 lbs., Tangradi boasts the physical attributes to be a force up front, adding an additional layer of grit to a line that already prides itself on giving opposing defenders all they can handle with their hard-nosed style of play.

“I think I add some size to the lineup. I’m just going to play fast and physical. I’m strong on pucks, and I think I’m a guy that can help out the bottom six as far as bringing physicality,” explained Tangradi, who registered three goals and six points in 55 games with the Jets last season. “I’ve got great linemates with Malhotra and Weise. We’ll see how things play out, but I think it’s a line that with our size and our skill, can definitely be counted on.”

One player who knows exactly what the Canadiens’ newest No. 17 brings to the table is P.K. Subban, who was a teammate of Tangradi’s for three seasons while the pair donned the colors of the OHL’s Belleville Bulls in the mid-to-late 2000s.

“I’m obviously happy to see him here. When he first got traded, I explained to him that he could be a guy that we needed on our team,” praised Subban, who gave Tangradi a lift to practice on Wednesday. “He brings some size and some grit. He was our captain in Belleville for a number of years, so I know what he brings in terms of leadership. He’s a good guy to have in the room as well, so I’m very happy to see him up here with the team.”

With a new lease on his NHL life, Tangradi is focused on making the most of his opportunity with the CH, utilizing lessons learned in recent weeks to his advantage.

“When I got put on waivers for the first time [in Winnipeg in early October], I think that’s one of the lowest times I’ve had in my career. You do a lot of looking in the mirror and evaluating yourself as a person and as a player,” confided Tangradi, who boasts five goals, 15 points and 69 penalty minutes in 136 career NHL games. “Getting traded was something I was extremely excited for. It was a fresh opportunity. I was excited to go to Hamilton to try and get my game back, and to get the confidence I had when I was playing every night. When I was down there, I was playing 20 minutes a game, and playing in every situation. I really think my game is better off now that I did go to Hamilton versus say I just came here and maybe I’d be in and out of the lineup trying to find that confidence.”

That renewed sense of self-assurance will undoubtedly serve Tangradi well in his quest to secure a full-time gig in his new hockey home.

“Coming into the pros, there was a lot of pressure on me to score, and I didn’t focus on the things that potentially got me to this level. Over the last few years and the experience I had in the beginning of the season, I think sticking to my foundation as far as being a fast and physical winger is something that has to come first, and the rest of my game will come later,” concluded Tangradi, who has dished out 259 hits since making his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2009-10. “I’m here for a purpose. I’m going to try and do my job and stick around for as long as I can.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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