SAN JOSE – It wasn’t the easiest of days for Jeff Petry, but the Canadiens’ newest rearguard certainly made a good first impression on Monday night.
Logging just over 18 minutes of ice time in his Habs debut, the 27-year-old rearguard showcased the attributes that made him a prime target for teams around the league looking to bolster their respective blue lines leading up to the NHL trade deadline.
“I really liked what I saw. He skates very well. He makes a good first pass. He was involved in the play,” praised head coach Michel Therrien, whose squad saw their winning streak snapped at four games after dropping a 4-0 decision to the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. “Under these circumstances, it was very tough for him to play, but I really liked what I saw from him out there.”
The circumstances the Canadiens’ bench boss was referring to involved a travel day that began at 6:45 a.m. MT when Petry was informed by Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish that he was on the move. He then made the 2,500 km trek to San Jose, joining his new teammates in Northern California just 90 minutes before puck drop.
“I just had to get my bags packed in Edmonton and coordinate with somebody to meet me halfway to the airport to drop off my gear. I didn’t even get in the rink to be able to talk to anybody or even pick up my gear myself,” confided Petry, who played 27 shifts on Monday night, chipping in with one shot on goal, one blocked shot, one takeaway and one hit. “I arrived at SAP Center around 5:30. I got in some stretching and then it was time for warmup. It was a long day. I was trying to find my legs in the first period. In the second and third, I started to find my game.”
It certainly didn’t hurt Petry’s cause to line up alongside the likes of veterans Sergei Gonchar and Tom Gilbert against San Jose. Having played with Gilbert before in Edmonton, Petry appeared to feel right at home in his brand new surroundings.
“It really helped me to be paired with Tom. I played with him a little bit a few years ago. That definitely helped my transition,” mentioned Petry, who registered four goals and 15 points in 59 games with the Oilers in 2014-15 before joining the Canadiens. “Having Gibby there, playing with Patch at the World Championships, and I know Weaver a bit from the Michigan State connection. It was good to see some familiar faces.”
Now that the Canadiens’ No. 26 has his first game under his belt, the goal is to learn as much as possible – as quickly as possible – about the team’s defensive systems and how his skill set can be used to help their cause going forward.
“I can definitely feel comfortable in it. They told me not to change my game, to continue moving my feet and getting pucks up to the forwards quickly, and to join the rush as the fourth guy,” explained Petry. “The Canadiens have a lot of speed and they take a lot of pride in their transition game. Working into this system requires an adjustment period, especially in the neutral and offensive zones. I got caught a few times with my old ways. I’ll learn this system as I go.”
And, when he does fully grasp the intricacies of that system, you can bet he’ll be a treat to watch.
“There was a lot of emotion,” concluded Petry. “I couldn’t be more excited to join this club and be with them moving forward.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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