BROSSARD - It remains to be seen if David Schlemko will make his Canadiens debut on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but things are definitely trending in the right direction for the veteran defenseman.
Schlemko was back at practice with the big club on Sunday at the Bell Sports Complex following a two-game conditioning stint with the AHL's Laval Rocket.
The 30-year-old rearguard underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment in his right hand back in mid-October and has been sidelined ever since. The initial injury, of course, dates back to the early stages of training camp.
"It was good. It was nice to get back playing in a real game. My legs were a little heavy last night and this morning, but that's to be expected, I guess," said Schlemko, who was held without a point in a pair of losses to the Utica Comets, while collecting five shots on goal and posting a plus-2 differential. "It was a quick turnaround [from Friday night to Saturday afternoon]. I hadn't done one of those in a long time. It was nice to get back in a game situation and kind of get your timing back."
Video: David Schlemko on his two-game stint in Laval
Following Sunday's on-ice session, head coach Claude Julien indicated that a decision on Schlemko's status for the tilt against Columbus would come on game day.
Needless to say, though, Schlemko is chomping at the bit to finally sport the colors of his new team for real. But, he may still have to wait his turn.
"I'd like to play, but we're a quarter of the way into the season. If they think I need a little more work, then that's what I'll do. I'm just excited to be close to playing again," explained Schlemko, who hasn't seen game action in the NHL ranks since April 22, when he was still a member of the San Jose Sharks. "We had a winning lineup last night [against Buffalo]. I'm here to be a part of the team and to get the team wins. It's not just about myself."
Just being back in the thick of things with the rest of the group right now means everything to Schlemko. Watching from afar hasn't been easy at all.
"It's huge. It's been a long time coming," said Schlemko, who was featured alongside Brandon Davidson during Sunday's workout. "Obviously, there's been a lot of frustration. But, I'm just trying to put that behind me now and move forward."
And, when he does get the call, he expects to fit right into Julien's system.
"I was still around at training camp. A lot of the teaching's done there and I've seen some video," said Schlemko. "I've played for a lot of different coaches, so I don't think that should be a real problem for me."
No doubt Schlemko's teammates are eager to see him to get a chance to strut his stuff soon - possibly as early as Monday night at the Bell Centre.
"I think we're excited for him. Obviously, you kind of forget how important of a piece we were expecting him to be at the start of the year. Getting him in, he's obviously going to help our lineup," said Brendan Gallagher. "It's obviously not going to be easy jumping in, missing that much time, but he'll come in and play his game and do what he's done for however many years now in the NHL and been successful."