PHILADELPHIA - With the All-Star game now firmly in the rear-view mirror, the Canadiens are ready to lace up their skates and get back to work.
Presently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Canadiens face a tough road ahead with just a third of the regular season remaining. As such, the team’s much needed All-Star break could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the challenge that lies ahead.
“The best part of the break was the fact that I could focus on something other than just hockey. Even-though I spent time in Florida, where you can hear everyone talking about the success of the Panthers, I just tried to detach myself from it and pretend like I didn’t know what they were talking about,” articulated Max Pacioretty, who was forced to leave the Canadiens most recent matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 26 with an upper-body injury.
The Habs will certainly have to make the most of their recharged batteries as they prepare to take on the Philadelphia Flyers, who are fresh off a 4-3 overtime victory over the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals.
"One day at a time. That’s our mind set right now. Philadelphia is a team that is in the middle of the playoff race, just like us. We are entering a phase where a potential two points in the standings has tremendous value. We have to give it our all," noted Pacioretty, who has registered three goals and 12 assists in in 17 career games against the Flyers. “It's a big challenge. This is going to be a tough test us. Early in the season everything was clicking and everyone was talking about how good of a team we are. Now we’ve done a complete 180 degree turn both in the standings and in the way that we are evaluated as a team."
The Canadiens captain wasn’t the only Hab who took advantage of the break to get a dose of rest and relaxation.
"It feels good to get a little break. I went to Mont Tremblant with some of my family and friends. I like to think of it as a new beginning. A chance to try to get back to the way we were playing and finish the rest of the season as strong as we started it," added David Desharnais, who was deployed alongside longtime line-mate Pacioretty by coach Michel Therrien at Monday afternoon’s practice.
Given the fact that since 2012-13, 74% of Max Pacioretty’s ice time has come alongside Desharnais, it is no wonder why coach Therrien elected to reunite the former Hamilton Bulldogs line-mates.
"The chemistry between us does not go away that quickly. It's already established. I trust the two of us together as a duo. It worked for several years. There is no doubt in my mind that we will be able to get that chemistry back," encouraged Desharnais, who topped over 19:00 minutes of ice-time for just the second time this season against the Blue Jackets on January 26. "Obviously my ice time is much different when I play down on the top line. When it jumps from 14-15 minutes to 18-19 minutes, that’s when you can start feeling a little out of breath, "commented Desharnais laughing. “I will certainly be having a little less to eat the next few days.”
Lucas Lessio, another player in search of a fresh start, is trying to make a strong first impression after being called up to the Canadiens for the first time this past weekend.
"Your goal is always to work harder and hope for the best. I worked my hardest and it is paying off now," explained Lessio, who rotated on a line with Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn, while sporting the number 53 in his first practice with the team. "I was a little nervous at practice this morning. It can take five or ten minutes to get used to it, but after that, you play the same sport that you've played since you were a child. I was a little nervous, but it disappeared quickly.”
From the captain down to the new arrivals, each member of the Canadiens dressing room is committed to working their way back to the win column.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
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