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by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – With a penchant for physical play and sound decision-making, Greg Pateryn is steadily solidifying his role on the Canadiens’ back end.

Now in his second stint with the big club during the 2014-15 campaign, the 24-year-old has offered up one standout performance after another since returning to the Canadiens lineup on March 14, chipping in with 21 hits and nine blocked shots in his last eight games alone.

“I’m just going out there and feeling more and more comfortable every game and every shift. I’m trying to take the next step because when playoffs do come around the corner, everyone picks it up a level and you’ve got to be there or else you’re going to be behind,” offered Pateryn, who is averaging 12:42 of ice time per game and boasts 39 hits through 14 outings with the Canadiens this season. “Even this last stretch of [regular season] games, you can definitely tell that teams are really turning it on, especially ones that are in a playoff race. As the season goes on, the pace is completely different.”

Fortunately, Pateryn has done nothing but thrive under these conditions. The Sterling Heights, MI native feels right at home playing in games that mandate players take their intensity and grit factor to a whole new level.

“When teams are coming like that, it kind of puts you on your toes a little more. Knowing that they are coming hard, you wake up a little bit,” mentioned Pateryn, who has registered a plus-2 differential in 17 career NHL games over the last three seasons combined. “With guys coming, especially with my style of game, it creates opportunities for hits, whether they’re coming to hit me or they’re in a position to get hit. It’s something that helps me get involved in the game. If a hit presents itself and I have a chance to finish a guy, by all means I’m going to take that opportunity.”

Pateryn has certainly been effective at doing just that while keeping his cool and staying disciplined along the way. He’s spent just six minutes in the penalty box this year with the Canadiens, which is a good indicator the former University of Michigan standout understands just how to use his size and stature effectively at the NHL level.

“I think it’s something that doesn’t just come right away. There’s a fine line between playing with an edge and playing hard versus playing reckless, taking stupid penalties and running around out there,” stressed Pateryn, who registered 15 goals and 34 points in 68 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15. “As long as you’re always in position and finishing your checks when you have a chance, that’s the biggest thing.”

Staying true to that formula has earned the American rearguard high praise from head coach Michel Therrien, who admits Pateryn’s transition to the Canadiens’ blue line has been nothing short of seamless this time around.

“This is what we like about him. He’s a demanding guy to play against. He’ll make you pay at the right time. He’s disciplined and he’s getting more and more confident game after game,” explained Therrien, who was particularly impressed by Pateryn’s play alongside fellow young gun Nathan Beaulieu in the Canadiens’ playoff-clinching win on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers. “We like the way Greg’s been playing. We like the way he’s been competing. The fact that we have another physical presence amongst our defensemen is a bonus.”

That’s for sure, especially when the Canadiens’ playoff opponents will undoubtedly try to push them around at every opportunity. It’s safe to say that if Pateryn gets the call, though, come mid-April, he fully intends to push right back.

“Getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs would be really exciting. I played in the NCAA playoffs before, but that’s probably nowhere near comparison to this. I think just the excitement and the emotion would pick everyone’s level up to another notch and I’d be happy to be there with them,” mentioned Pateryn, who was one of Therrien’s “Black Aces” during last season’s lengthy playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. “Feeling the emotion and adrenaline going every game during the Stanley Cup playoffs. You can’t really ask for much more than that.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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