BROSSARD - The Canadiens made several key decisions with respect to their roster on Monday with the start of the 2016-17 campaign on the horizon.
- During Monday's practice session at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, the Canadiens confirmed that two youngsters would begin the regular season in the NHL ranks. Artturi Lehkonen and Mikhail Sergachev had sufficiently impressed the Canadiens' brass over the last few weeks to be a part of the 23-man roster that would head to Buffalo for a date with the Sabres on October 13th.
"They told me I was starting the season here and it was great news from me. Marc [Bergevin] and Michel [Therrien] told me that this is where the job starts. When the actual games start, it will get only tougher," admitted Lehkonen, who amassed two goals and three points in five preseason outings. "I was confident. They gave me a chance to play with some good guys and I think I made the most of those chances. Luckily, they saw it the same way and now I made the team."
Video: Lehkonen on starting the regular season in Montreal
A few stalls away in the Canadiens' locker room, Sergachev was just as pleased to begin the year in Montreal. While it still remains to be seen if the Russian rearguard will spend the entire season with the big club or possibly return to the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, Sergachev is well aware of the situation he finds himself in right now. After all, he will soon become the first 18-year-old defensemen to begin a season with the Canadiens since Mathieu Schneider in 1987-88.
As far as his living situation is concerned, Sergachev doesn't yet know if he'll be staying at a hotel or with one of his new teammates. He isn't looking that far ahead, though, preferring instead to savor the moment and take it all in.
"I'm so happy. I had a meeting with the coaches and after I went straight to the ice. Yes, I'll start the season with the team, but I might still go back and play only nine games. They haven't told me yet what the plan is," indicated Sergachev, who registered two assists in four preseason appearances. "I'm not a full-time NHL player yet, but I'd like to be."
Video: Sergachev on starting the regular season in Montreal
- If Lehkonen and Sergachev received good news, the same can't be said for both Michael McCarron and Mike Condon. In Condon's case, the Massachusetts native could very well have made his final appearance in Canadiens colors on Monday after being placed on waivers at noon. If he isn't claimed by one of the 29 other NHL teams, he'll have to report to the AHL's Saint John's IceCaps.
Head coach Michel Therrien says decisions like these are never easy. In Condon's case, it was particularly tough given the work he offered up under tough circumstances last season.
"It isn't easy, especially when it's a guy who grew up in the organization. We were in a tough spot last year and he did his best. We're all aware of it," mentioned Therrien on the move to keep Al Montoya in Montreal to serve as Carey Price's backup instead of Condon. "He understood the situation. Days like that, there are moments when you're excited to meet guys and others that aren't as pleasant. But, that's all a part of the reality of professional hockey."
McCarron, meanwhile, will join the Canadiens' affiliate in short order. Having enjoyed a good camp - where he made his presence felt both physically and on the scoresheet - the 2013 first-round selection will surely find his way back to Montreal at some point, according the Therrien.
"As a young player, he always has to continue to improve, even when you make it to the NHL. He needs to keep improving all the time. In his case, he gave what he had to give. There were decisions that had to be made. But, one thing is certain. We know that he's a player who will play in the NHL eventually. Will it be in one week, one month or one year? It's tough for me to answer that question today," mentioned Therrien, referencing the play of the 21-year-old forward. "We know that he has a good work ethic, a good attitude and he's a good teammate. He's improved every year since being drafted and we're convinced that he'll play in the NHL one day."
Video: Therrien on player decisions
- In his post-practice press conference, Therrien also confirmed that defenseman Jeff Petry was placed on injured reserve and that he would miss the season-opener in Buffalo. He also added that Petry's availability for ensuing games would be determined over the coming days.
- Carey Price didn't partake in Monday's practice session after coming down with the flu.