MONTREAL – Rookies aren’t the only ones using training camp to establish their roles in the lineup.
Like an extended audition, the NHL preseason gives prospects a chance to showcase their talents and earn jobs with the big club. It also provides an opportunity for seasoned veterans to bolster their spots in the lineup and hit their strides heading into the season.
“You don’t want to peak too soon. It’s all about improving every day,” explained Max Pacioretty, who led all forwards in ice time in his first preseason game, playing 18:59 against the Bruins. “Especially in my situation playing with a new guy on the team, we want to learn from each other and sometimes you almost have to just learn from your mistakes. I don’t watch a lot of games, but I’ll definitely watch tonight and see what Danny [Briere]’s tendencies were and hopefully we can build off that and get better every day.”
Flanked by the newly-acquired Hab in game action for the first time since Briere signed with the Canadiens on July 3, Pacioretty and his linemates appeared to be in mid-season form on their first (unofficial) goal of the year. After finishing off a tic-tac-toe play from Briere and David Desharnais to tie the game at three in the second period, Pacioretty is optimistic about the chemistry the threesome has already built after just one week together at camp.
“Danny is a very skilled player and we have to get used to his tendencies and, personally, I know I have to give him the puck and then create some space for him,” described Pacioretty. “He’s a player who can shoot or pass so that gives us a dual-threat on that right side. I think people knew I was shooting a lot and Davey was passing a lot so having Danny there being able to do both can maybe open up some opportunities for Davey as well.”
Finishing with one assist, one takeaway and a 75% efficiency in the faceoff circle in his Habs debut, Briere is already looking comfortable in his new bleu-blanc-rouge
threads. Despite being the architect behind the Canadiens’ prettiest goal of the evening, the 35-year-old is looking at Monday night as merely a solid starting point for the season to come.
“That [goal] was a good feeling. No hesitation; it just happened. Hopefully we’re going to keep seeing those plays happening,” mentioned Briere, who has yet to put his trademark fist pump celebration on display as a member of the Habs. “The puck didn’t stay on our sticks too long. When you have a scorer like Max on your line you try to find him around the net.
“But it’s just a preseason game. For us, the most important thing is finding chemistry with your linemates,” added the 16-year NHL veteran. “It’s not important that we go out there and score three or four goals; what matters is that we get better as a line. We saw some little things out there and we made adjustments throughout the game that will help us down the road if we keep playing together.”
While the 52-man training camp roster was officially trimmed to 38 immediately following Monday’s game, the first-round cut survivors still aren’t likely to start feeling comfortable with their job security just yet. With everything from roster spots to power play time still up for grabs, every player in the room knows the value of performing well in the preseason.
“Obviously there are people here chomping at the bit. I think what the best teams do is bring in a lot of guys. Look at our defense situation right now – I think we have eight guys on one-way [contracts],” mentioned Pacioretty. “That’s all part of creating competition. I think it keeps everyone honest and keeps everyone working hard. When you have that, it makes everyone better.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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