BROSSARD – Suiting up for Monday night’s Canadian Tire Red vs. White Scrimmage will be an experience some players won’t soon forget.
After undergoing a battery of medical and physical tests, and going head-to-head in one scrimmage after another on the South Shore, a group of 40 players will don the CH in front of a sold-out Bell Centre crowd, some for the very first time.
“It’s special. I think that it’s a good way to start. I’m excited to play my first game at the Bell Centre, even if it’s not necessarily a real one. It’ll be great to experience it alongside my new teammates,” offered veteran right-winger Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who was acquired by the Canadiens back on June 30th in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. “The guys appreciate the fact that the Bell Centre will be completely full for a scrimmage. You don’t see that anywhere else in the NHL. It really provides added motivation to play. It’s not always enjoyable to play games against your teammates. That’s not what we want. But, the fact that we’ll be playing in front of 21,000 people makes things much more interesting.”
“Interesting” is a good way to describe the almost instantaneous chemistry the Hull native has forged with linemates Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais at training camp. The trio wasted little time showcasing its creativity and resourcefulness, racking up points at a good pace at the Bell Sports Complex over the weekend. Now, Parenteau is hoping the line can bring that same success along with them across the Champlain Bridge for Monday night’s intra-squad tilt and beyond.
“It’s going really well on the ice. We’re seeing each other well, and we’re passing the puck around well, too. We have confidence in each other. Camp is still in the early stages, but we’re headed in the right direction,” mentioned the 31-year-old, who put up 14 goals and 33 points in 55 regular season games for Colorado in 2013-14, before adding a goal and three points in seven playoff games during his first trip to the postseason.
“We appreciate playing with each other. We have a little bit of everything on the line. We’ve got a playmaker, a passer and a shooter. We’re also not scared to make a play because we know that one of us will be able to finish it off. We’re keeping things simple,” added Parenteau, who also previously played for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and New York Islanders over the course of his six-year NHL career. “When I learned that we’d be playing together, I saw their enthusiasm and it made me feel good. The team has put me in a good position to have success, and I’m hoping to make the most of it.”
If Parenteau is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to sport the bleu-blanc-rouge in front of a passionate Bell Centre crowd, it’s safe to say the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2014, 18-year-old Nikita Scherbak, feels exactly the same way.
“It’s going to be crazy. I’m excited. I’m nervous. Galchenyuk said – “You’re going to be shaking when you get out there for your first shift.” I said – “O.K. Thanks for your help,” joked Scherbak, who will line up alongside Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher on Monday night. “It’s awesome to be playing with them. It’s exciting to play with young guys. Galchenyuk has helped me a lot in drills and practice. I like it.”
Like Parenteau, Scherbak has opened plenty of eyes in Brossard since arriving in La Belle Province for rookie camp earlier this month. The Saskatoon Blades’ leading scorer in 2013-14 insists his extended stay in Montreal thus far has been time well spent, and he’s growing increasingly comfortable in his new surroundings by the day.
“I’ve just been trying to play hard. It’s kind of hard with NHL guys out there. I was nervous in my first scrimmage, but it’s getting better and better with every game. I’m feeling better,” confided Scherbak, who is adamant his primary objective is to crack the Canadiens' roster from the start. “I just have different emotions coming to the rink and going to the gym with NHL guys. I love just being here.”
Just wait until he sees what the Bell Centre faithful have in store for him and the rest of the group come game time at 7 p.m. EST. He’ll never want to leave.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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