BROSSARD - Time spent with the AHL's Laval Rocket this season did defenseman Christian Folin a world of good.
It was there that Folin met assistant coach Daniel Jacob during a conditioning stint in late November that spanned seven games.
Tasked with running the club's defense corps, Jacob welcomed the 28-year-old Swedish blueliner into the fold with open arms and immediately made him feel at ease.
"We sat down from the minute I got there. He said "You're going to be playing a lot and I'm going to be here to help you. We're going to support you and we're going to have fun doing it." That had a good impact on me right away," explained Folin, who was a healthy scratch for 16 consecutive games with Montreal before being assigned to Laval on November 27. "We did a lot of video together, and I knew he was going to put me in situations to succeed."
Folin returned to the big club on December 11, but he watched the ensuing 11 games from the sidelines before clearing waivers and being reassigned to Laval again on January 6.
It wasn't an easy pill to swallow, of course, but the seven-year NHL veteran took the demotion in stride. And he was committed to making his time under Jacob's tutelage a second time around worthwhile again.
"Going back there, I knew I was going to be there for a while, so I was going to do everything I could to help the team make the playoffs and do the best I could to enjoy my time," said Folin, who subsequently made another eight appearances in the AHL ranks. "When I started playing, it made me a happier person. You want to play the game that you love and you want to have fun doing it. When you're not playing, it's really tough mentally. Getting back playing was huge for everything."
Folin even appreciated the lengthy bus rides that come with plying your trade in the minors, and there were quite a few.
He made just four outings in the friendly confines of Place Bell. The other 11 were on road ice.
"There were a lot of hours on the bus. We had a lot of road trips," recalled Folin, whose previous AHL experience was with the Iowa Wild when he was still a member of the Minnesota Wild organization . "I spent a lot of time on the road, but it was good. I enjoyed it. "
No matter the venue, the Gothenburg native was simply grateful to be getting back into his normal routine.
"Being able to play hockey again and enjoy it, it puts a smile on your face. You put your work boots on and you enjoy going to the rink every day and trying to get better. That's the biggest thing. When you play, you have more fun," mentioned Folin. "Laval is a really cool place to play. I like what they're building."
On Monday, Folin was recalled by the Canadiens ahead of their road trip to New Jersey, and he suited up for his first NHL game since October 19.
The UMass-Lowell product seized the opportunity by scoring his first goal in nearly two years in a huge 5-4 shootout win.
It was also his first tally in Canadiens uniform.
"It felt really good to get that goal. It's always a special feeling scoring goals. I don't score too many of them, so when you score a goal, it's a special feeling," stated Folin. "My phone was definitely blowing up a little bit after the game. A lot of my friends reached out to me, especially after getting called up and scoring right away."
Folin's two tours of duty with the Rocket clearly prepared him for a successful return, and he's thankful for the AHL assignments.
"It's huge to carry that momentum that I got in Laval just by playing in all situations and playing a lot of minutes. That definitely helped. That builds confidence," concluded the undrafted rearguard, who will celebrate his 29th birthday on Sunday. "Coming into these games down the stretch, you want to be confident and you want to be able to go out there and perform every night. It would have been a completely different situation if I wasn't playing those games."