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Healthy and hungry

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Feeling healthy and fit, Brandon Prust is ready for what the NHL playoffs have in store.

Since lacing up his skates for the Canadiens for the first time three years ago, Prust has been winning over fans’ hearts with his fearless play on the ice. Always prepared to stick up for his teammates, the rugged forward often paid the price health-wise for his efforts, spending a good part of the season on the sidelines during his first two years in Montreal.

But, the 2014-15 campaign has been different for Prust. While he’s dropped the gloves 16 times, which ranks him third in the NHL, and dished out 122 hits, too, Prust hasn’t let any of the injuries he’s suffered slow him down. On the contrary, he hasn’t felt better after making a slight adjustment to his style of play.

“I’ve quit going head first into the boards all the time. I cut that out of my game a little bit,” cracked Prust, who played every regular season game this season, a first for him in a Canadiens uniform. “The injuries that I had, other than the oblique tear, were a bunch of shoulder injuries from stuff that I could’ve avoided. I kind of learned my lesson the hard way while being smarter out there and protecting the body a little bit more so I can last a little longer.”

In addition to playing a more conservative game, the 31-year-old forward also tweaked his offseason training last summer. While he used to focus primarily on boosting power and strength in the gym and refining his fighting skills with the help of UFC star Sam Stout – something he continues to do today – Prust also enlisted the help of other specialists to help improve his endurance. That has paid dividends for the London, ON native this time around.

“I used to only have one trainer. Now, I have others, so I do a little bit of both. I do more cardio and track work. It’s really good stuff and it really helped me ahead of training camp. I’m probably in the best shape of my life,” offered Prust, who averaged nearly 13 minutes of ice time per game during the regular season. “Usually I take one month off in the summer as soon as I get home. Last year, I only took one week off and went right back to work again.”

With the Canadiens’ playoff run about to get underway against the Ottawa Senators in the opening round, Prust is hungrier than ever to help his team win it all. While quietly stringing together his most productive campaign to date in La Belle Province with 18 points – his highest point-total since 2011-12 – the veteran of 451 NHL games is primed to contribute in every conceivable way in the postseason. He enters the playoffs fully healthy, which is a far different story than last year when he missed the final 12 games of the regular seasons before returning to active duty in the springtime tournament.

Needless to say, Prust was pleased to be able to return to the lineup come mid-April against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but a few weeks of inactivity slowed him down. Fortunately, that won’t be the case this season.

“I was starting to find my stride at the end of the season. Last year, I missed almost two months before the playoffs started. When I first came back, it was Game 1 against Tampa,” concluded Prust, who amassed two points in 13 playoff outings in 2013-14. “It was tough because everybody was in full stride and I had been sitting out for two months. I feel like I adapted quickly, though. It was just a disadvantage coming into the playoffs. This year, things will be different.”

You’ve got to like the sound of that.

Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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