MONTREAL - The beginning of Nick Cousins' tenure with the Canadiens certainly hasn't gone the way he envisioned it would.
After missing the first two games as a healthy scratch, the 26-year-old forward suffered a back injury that cost him any chance of playing in the last three.
Following Monday's practice at the Bell Centre, though, Cousins confirmed that he's ready to play and chomping at the bit to make his Habs debut.
Will that opportunity come on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning? The verdict is still out.
"I've been ready for this for a while now. It's never fun watching your team play," said Cousins, who was featured on a line with Paul Byron and Nate Thompson during the on-ice session. "But at the same time, you've just got to sit back, just encourage the guys and not sit around and mope around the dressing room. You have to be a good teammate, especially when things are going well. I'll just be ready when my name is called."
Video: Nick Cousins on being healthy and ready to play
After cracking the Canadiens' roster out of training camp, Cousins was eager to get to down to work and chip in.
He was coming off a career-high 27-point campaign (7G, 20A) with the Arizona Coyotes, and he wanted to pick up right where he left off in the desert.
"I was definitely disappointed. You always want to play, especially coming off the year I had last year. I think statistically I've gotten better every year. I think I'm trending in the right direction, so obviously I was pretty disappointed," admitted Cousins. "It's been a disappointing start, a tough start for me mentally. But, there's lots of hockey left, and you've just got to stay positive and be ready when coach calls upon you."
While the Belleville, ON native hasn't been able to contribute to the cause just yet, Cousins isn't getting down on himself.
He's proud of the effort his teammates have put forward through five games against some rather stiff competition.
"We play fast. We play really fast. It makes it hard when you keep coming at them with all four lines with that speed, and all four lines can grind and make plays. It makes a pretty lethal combo," praised Cousins. "We've scored 21 goals in five games, and the offense is clicking right now. If we just tighten things up a bit defensively, we should set ourselves up and give ourselves a chance a win to every night."
Video: NJD@MTL: Cousins sweeps home empty-net goal
As for his new surroundings, let's just say that Cousins is relishing calling Montreal his hockey home.
"The guys have been very welcoming. They've made me feel right at home. Just seeing these guys every day, I like the style of game we play," mentioned Cousins. "It's fun to be around the city when you're winning. Everybody's talking about the Habs. It's fun to be a part of. I love it here so far."
Should head coach Claude Julien insert Cousins into the lineup versus the Lightning, the veteran bench boss expects him to bring some big energy to the group.
"We know he's got grit. He's got some sandpaper to his game, a guy that's not afraid to go to the front of the net," said Julien. "He showed a lot of good things in training camp."