UNIONDALE – Confident and centered, the Canadiens and David Desharnais look to continue playing their best hockey of the season in Long Island.
After a breakout season alongside Max Pacioretty in 2011-12 that saw him finish the year with 60 points, Desharnais kicked off the latest campaign ready to do it all over again. While he may not have started the year setting off as many red lights as he would have liked, few can argue that since the 5-foot-7 center had rediscovered his game, he’s been a force to be reckoned with and a major cog in the team’s recent success.
“I think I remember saying that anyone making any bad comments about Desharnais was going to eat crow and it looks like they’re doing that now,” said Pacioretty, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week. “He’s an unbelievable player and he’s added an even bigger element to his game this year. He’s going to the net and shooting the puck a bit more. It’s really showing a lot and he’s more scoring goals now, too.”
After getting off to a slow start to 2012-13, logging only five points in the first 13 games of the season, Desharnais has caught fire of late, picking up 10 points in his last nine games.
“It’s a return to basics. We’re having a great time and we’re also working really hard. Right now things are going well for us and we’re winning games,” offered Desharnais, who’s been playing his best hockey of the year alongside Pacioretty and now Brendan Gallagher. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s also a question of confidence. When things are going well, there’s nothing that can stop us.”
With his confidence finally in place, the Laurier-Station native has come up big for the Habs, putting up three points in the team’s last three emotionally-charged tilts against the Maple Leafs, Penguins and Bruins. According to teammate Josh Gorges, it was never a question of if Desharnais could reproduce the same performance he gave last year, but when.
“I think he’s really finally started to play like himself. It seemed like he was putting a little too much pressure on himself because the beginning of his season wasn’t going quite the way he wanted, but he’s been playing great hockey lately,” said Gorges, who for his own part, once again finds himself ranked among the league’s Top 10 shot-blockers, with 57. “He always wants to be in control of the puck and it feels like he’s winning all his battles when he goes in for loose pucks. He’s got such great vision on the ice that if he gets the puck on his stick, you know he’s going to find his two other linemates. When he’s rolling, he’s a huge element of our team.”
While Desharnais and the rest of the Habs are right to be happy with their play of late, the Canadiens’ center pointed out how quickly it can all evaporate the second they take their eyes off the prize.
“We played two big games over the course of the weekend. But we have to ready for this one now, because we know they’re going to be,” said Desharnais, of the Islanders squad that completed a comeback to down the Habs in overtime at the Bell Centre on Feb. 21. “The last time we went up against them, it’s possible that we were too confident. We learned our lesson and now it’s time to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistake.”
Desharnais will try to repeat the two-point performance he turned in against the Isles in their last meeting when the puck drops at 7:00 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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