BATHURST - It's finally here! The Canadiens are in New Brunswick to celebrate the town of Renous, winners of the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville contest.
The Habs took part in a morning skate at the KC Irving Centre in Bathurst on Wednesday morning ahead of their showdown with the Florida Panthers.
Needless to say, the community is ecstatic to be welcoming the Canadiens to town, with fans lining the red carpet to greet the team and jamming the arena for the pregame on-ice session to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.
Forward Jonathan Drouin, who played for the Halifax Mooseheads in Junior, wasn't surprised to see the enthusiasm for bleu-blanc-rouge in this part of the country.
"The Canadiens are the team people cheer for in the Maritimes. When I played in Halifax, people were all Canadiens fans, same with my billet family," recalled Drouin. "We watched Canadiens games. We're going to have a lot of support tonight.
"It was really cool to see the atmosphere this morning, there must not be a lot of kids in school. It's good to see them having fun."
At practice, goaltender Charlie Lindgren was in the starter's net, although head coach Claude Julien did not announce who would get the nod in the crease against the Panthers.
Meanwhile, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling took part in the on-ice session ahead of their first preseason game, and the Finnish forward feels more confident coming into the contest with some experience to back him up.
"I have one year under my belt already. It's a little bit of a different situation now," said Kotkaniemi, who scored 11 goals and added 23 assists in 79 games in his rookie season. "Everyone needs to do their best and show the coaches what they've got."
The festivities continue throughout the day and culminate with the Habs-Cats duel back at KC Irving Centre. Puck drop is set for 8:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. ET). The game can be seen on Sportsnet One and TVA Sports on television or heard on the radio on TSN 690 and 98,5 fm.