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Schlemko: Back on the blueline

Fully healthy again, defenseman David Schlemko could hit a milestone later on this week in his native Alberta

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - After returning to the Canadiens' lineup just in time for a big win over the Vegas Golden Knights, defenseman David Schlemko is eagerly anticipating the upcoming Western Canada road trip.

Schlemko and the rest of the Habs will fly to his hometown of Edmonton on Monday, before opening the three-game trek against the Oilers on Tuesday night at Rogers Place.

No doubt Schlemko is hoping to suit up again in front of family members and friends aplenty, who will be in attendance to cheer him on after he overcame his most recent bout with the injury bug.

This time around, it was a knee injury suffered late in the preseason that cost him the first 16 games of the 2018-19 campaign.

"It's always fun going home and playing in front of your family and friends. That used to be a lot more nerve-racking. I think playing there in the playoffs a couple of years ago [with San Jose] was probably the most nervous I'd ever been. After that, it doesn't seem so bad anymore," said Schlemko with a laugh. "It would have been a lot more nerve-racking if it was my first game back, so I was happy to get one under my belt here before I head home."

Video: TOR@MTL: Schlemko blasts puck by Andersen for PPG

His cell phone hasn't been ringing off the hook for ticket requests, though, and there's a good reason why.

"I just have to take care of my family because pretty much all of my buddies have season tickets. They're big Oilers fans, so I won't have to buy too many," explained the 11-year NHL veteran, who logged 20 minutes of ice time against the Golden Knights, blocking three shots, dishing out two hits and compiling a plus-2 differential along the way. "But, I'll still have to buy a few. Lots of people to see."

Should Schlemko get the nod from head coach Claude Julien in the Alberta capital, it would mark the 399th game of his career, meaning that he could hit the 400-game plateau on Thursday night in Calgary, one of his five former teams.

"I've been looking at 400 since the start of last year," mentioned Schlemko, whose 2017-18 campaign consisted of just 37 appearances due to injury, including a broken hand suffered on the first day of training camp that ultimately required surgery. "I didn't think it would take this long."

As for his latest rehab stint, it was anything but easy. Nevertheless, past stays on the sidelines have taught him a thing or two about coping with these types of situations.

"It was really tough mentally. Going through what I did last year, the surgery and another setback, it was a lot. I think my attitude was a lot better this year," said Schlemko. "I just put my nose to the grindstone and got back to work. You can't feel sorry for yourself because no one else is going to. It happens to everybody."

Bottom line, Schlemko is thrilled to be fully healthy again. He's a big fan of the group's playing style and the camaraderie both on the ice and in the room.

"We play a good team game," concluded Schlemko. "Everyone's on the same page. Everyone's playing together and playing for each other."

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