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Compete level

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Subban discusses yesterday’s practice, Gionta skates with the team and Cammalleri on his new line.

Compete level: Competing hard come game-time starts with competing hard in practice and that’s exactly what P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec were doing during Monday’s skate when a hard-fought battle in front of the net turned into a light scrap between teammates. It didn’t take long for Josh Gorges to jump in and break things up, and it didn’t take much longer for both players to point out that as always, there were no hard feelings involved.

“We’re going through a rough stretch and sometimes that’s what happens. It happened last year a few times and I think we ended up coming out of it a better team,” expressed Subban after the team’s Tuesday morning skate. “If you saw, afterwards everyone in practice started picking it up a little so sometimes that feistiness is a good thing.”

Brian Gionta

“There’ve been a couple of jokes going around. I told Travis Moen that I thought it was him and that’s why my gloves were off so quick – he told me not even Josh Gorges could have helped me if that was the case,” kidded Subban. “Of course Pleky and I have spoken since then. We both know it’s nothing personal – it’s never anything personal. It’s just about wanting to come out and practice as hard as possible to get better.”

Gio gets closer: One piece of positive news for the Habs is the impending return of captain Brian Gionta to the lineup. Sidelined since the team’s December 8th game against the Canucks, Gionta was back skating with the rest of the Canadiens for the first time Tuesday morning in Brossard.

“It’s nice to be out there and back into the swing of things. Obviously it’s been a long road, but it’s nice to be practicing with the guys and taking steps in the right direction,” said Gionta who will not lace up to face the Jets on Wednesday and will be re-evaluated for Saturday’s tilt against the Lightning.

“I think this is going to be a good time for us,” added Gionta of the fact the six of the Canadiens next seven games will be played at home. “Since Cunneyworth came in we haven’t had much to buckle down, work on things and get some good practice time. We’ve been on the road, doing a lot of game-day skates and really haven’t been able to put in the work we’ve needed. This next week-and-a-half should be a good chance to do just that.”

The change-up: When the Habs face off against the Jets at the Bell Centre Wednesday night, fans can expect to see a few new line combinations in action. After flanking David Desharnais for the Canadiens’ last three games, Michael Cammalleri will find himself joining a line with Tomas Plekanec and Erik Cole versus Winnipeg.

“Things change quickly and sometimes putting different guys together is a good thing, so I’m just going to try and bring my best game and hopefully we find some chemistry,” dropped Cammalleri who collected three points in the team’s most recent three-game road trip. “I’ve played with Plekanec quite a bit over the past couple of years so that’ll be familiar. Erik brings a strong skating, physical game and try drive puck deep and wide and that should open up some ice.”

Cammalleri will hope to help generate some more offense for the Habs as he joins the team’s top two scorers with Plekanec registering 29 points in 39 games this season, and Cole, 27.

“We’re going to try and keep things simple as a team, but as I said before, there’s a fine line between simplicity and not playing with enough natural reaction. That’s up to us to figure out as a group – we have to walk on the right side of that line.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

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