LAVAL-SUR-LE-LAC - In the wake of Labour Day weekend, members of the Canadiens organization reconvened at the Laval-sur-le-Lac Golf Club for the team’s annual golf tournament. For most of the guys, it was the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with one another after spending the offseason apart. Players took advantage of the warm summer months in different ways – some used the time off to rest up and let injuries heal; others managed to fit a wedding in between gruelling off-ice training sessions.
ON THE MEND: Captain Brian Gionta missed the final games of the first round with a torn biceps tendon, and has been working hard to regain his form after offseason surgery. He will be looking to play all 82 games of the regular season for the first time since 2010-11, his first year in Montreal.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now. The goal is to be ready for the start of the season,” he announced. “[The arm] felt great after surgery. I was able to work on everything else during the summer and started training my arm about three weeks ago. It’s progressing well.”
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Starting goaltender Carey Price spent his offseason slightly differently. Recently married to his longtime girlfriend Angela, Price and his new bride spent the summer in Kelowna, B.C., where the netminder rehabbed the knee injury he suffered against Ottawa in the playoffs. Expected to start a majority of the team’s 82 games this year, Price took a long-term view on his preseason preparation.
“I took a longer break than usual. There’s no sense in rushing back and being one hundred percent ready in July,” the recent attendee of Team Canada’s Sochi 2014 orientation camp explained before adding that he’ll be well prepared for the start of the Habs’ training camp.
PARTNER IN CRIME: Price’s seatmate on the flight over to the Team Canada camp in Calgary was none other than reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. Matching a career-high in points with 38 in the 2012-13 regular season, Subban was a key part of the Canadiens powerplay, in addition to establishing himself as a go-to player in all situations for coach Michel Therrien, and he's looking for an encore performance this year. Though he is now considered one of the best defensemen in the NHL following his award-winning season, Subban hasn’t spent much time thinking about the honor.
“There were lots of positives last year and we’re looking to continue to build on that,” Subban announced. “It’s great [to win the Norris] but I’m focused on the now and not the past. It’s just great to be back on the golf course with the guys.”
REVAMPED ROSTER: Another important member of the Canadiens’ defense corps, assistant captain Josh Gorges is also looking forward to getting back on the ice with his teammates for the first time after a disappointing first-round playoff exit against the Ottawa Senators.
“The way [last season] ended left a bitter taste, but we started building on something and this is going to be a fun year,” the veteran defenseman proclaimed.
He was also full of praise for GM Marc Bergevin’s offseason acquisitions, especially former San Jose Sharks teammate Douglas Murray.
“Murray is a beast,” confirmed Gorges. “He’s a big man and plays that way. He’s also a great person and a lot of fun; you’ll love him!”
BIG DEBUT: Speaking with the Montreal media for one of his first times as a Hab, Murray himself was a bit more understated in his comments. Despite measuring six-foot-three and weighing a healthy 245 pounds, Murray plans on entering camp displaying his typical Swedish reserve.
“There are more cameras here than we had the last few years in San Jose,” he laughed, before admitting he still understood what he was getting himself into, joining a team with a wealth of NHL-ready players on the blue line.“I know what I signed up for. I know that I will have to earn [my spot] with the team.”
THE ENFORCER: The other big body acquired by the Canadiens over the summer, George Parros will miss some playing time at the start of the campaign while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Once he’s back, however, he’ll look to lend a helping hand to the team’s incumbent tough guy, Brandon Prust.
“I had [Prust] come pick me up this morning. We had a long chat on the way over,” explained Parros, who had his rotator cuff repaired in May but, in his words, “will be ready to go for the start of the season.”
NEW SNIPER IN TOWN: Arguably the most eagerly-anticipated arrival at the Laval-sur-le-Lac Club, free agent acquisition Daniel Briere was also on hand to speak to the press for the first time as a member of the home team.
“It’s surreal to be a part of the organization. I grew up idolizing the team and its players,” confessed the Gatineau native. “I’ve been thinking about my first game [with the Canadiens] for about two months now, so I’m really excited to get started.”
No spring chicken at 35 years of age, the veteran winger still holds himself to high standards in his offseason preparation.
“Every year, when you get older, you also get to know yourself better. You have a better idea of what you need [in terms of training and nutrition]. Even if I’m one of the old guys, there is always something to learn. I am definitely in better shape now than at the end of last summer.”
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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