The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday morning in preparation for their 2016-17 preseason opener against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre at 7:30 p.m. EST.
- It will mark the first of five preseason contests in seven days for Michel Therrien's troops, who will also be in action against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night.
- Veterans set to play include Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and David Desharnais up front, while Jeff Petry and Mark Barberio will form the top duo on the back end. Mike Condon and Charlie Lindgren will be the goaltenders in uniform.
- The Devils, meanwhile, will be sending a split squad to Montreal. Those players making the trip include Vernon Fiddler, Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique and Devante Smith-Pelly. Goaltenders Scott Wedgewood and Mackenzie Blackwood will also be on site.
- It's been quite a while since the Canadiens last played against an opponent in the friendly confines of the Bell Centre. It was back on April 9th, to be exact, when they handed the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-2 loss in the regular season finale.
After an extended summer break, those players being given the opportunity to suit up on Monday night simply can't wait to hit the ice.
"It's very exciting. It's been a while since we played a real game. Scrimmages and playing against each other isn't the same thing. After all, you don't want to hurt each other," shared Sven Andrighetto, who spent his offseason training on home turf in his native Switzerland before returning to Montreal in early August. "But now, we're very excited to finally get things started tonight."
Video: Sven Andrighetto on growing with experience
Set to begin his fifth NHL season in mid-October, Alex Galchenyuk shared similar thoughts with the first preseason game just hours away, stressing the importance of making these outings count before things get going for real.
"Even though it's preseason, it's still nice to get back to the Bell Centre and play in front of the fans," said Galchenyuk. "At the end of the day, we still want to come up with the win. It's a really important time and we've got to make sure that we stay focused and prepare ourselves the best that we can."
- Andrighetto is one player looking to build upon the vast NHL experience he managed to gain last year when he played 44 games in the big leagues, picking up seven goals and 17 points along the way.
"I got a lot of experience over the last year. Last year, when I got into camp, I only played 10 games for Montreal in the NHL. Now, I'm at 56. With that comes more experience, more confidence. It's definitely something I can use right now in my game," mentioned Andrighetto, slated to be featured on a line with David Desharnais and Daniel Carr against New Jersey.
"I know my role. I know what I have to do," added the 23-year-old Swiss forward, keenly aware of the things he'll have to display to earn his minutes during the upcoming campaign. "I focus on the things that I can control. Consistency-wise, it's still a big thing that I have to be consistent every single night."
- Monday night's game will be particularly special for 20-year-old Blainville native Daniel Audette, who will be playing his first career preseason game at the Bell Centre.
"I've been watching the Canadiens since I was young. My dad played for them, too, so it's very special," mentioned Audette, referencing his father Donald's stint with the Canadiens in the early 2000's. "[When I talk to him], he'll tell me to play my game, to do the things that I'm most comfortable doing and to focus, not to think too much."
Video: Daniel Audette on his first game at the Bell Centre
Admittedly, the former QMJHL standout is somewhat nervous heading into his NHL preseason debut, but playing in Sunday afternoon's intra-squad game helped to lessen that anxiety. He'll also be playing alongside a few familiar faces in Nikita Scherbak and Markus Eisenschmid, which should definitely up his comfort level.
"I played with them both yesterday. We know each other a bit. We played together in St. John's. We get along well on the ice," said Audette, who made his pro debut with the IceCaps late last season, playing four games for Sylvain Lefebvre's club.
If Galchenyuk could offer up any advice to a youngster in Audette's position, it would be this.
"I think just the number one thing is to build up that energy. I still remember the first time I skated at the Bell Centre, it was something special, something I'll never forget. I think the main thing is not to be afraid of the crowd or the excitement of it, just use it to your advantage and have fun with it," shared Galchenyuk. "It's the NHL. It's the Bell Centre in Montreal. Just enjoy it."
Probable lineup against New Jersey:
Farnham-De La Rose-Terry