NEWARK – Back in the Canadiens’ fold, Louis Leblanc talks about what he expects from his second stint in the NHL.
With a hole still needing to be filled on the front lines, the Canadiens opted to swap Bulldogs, sending down Andreas Engqvist and recalling 2009 first round draft-pick Louis Leblanc back from Hamilton. Returning after an initial 14-game stretch with the Habs that ended just before New Year’s, and comprised many firsts for the rookie forward, Leblanc has a new perspective on his second call up.
“I know a little bit better what to expect this time around. My first game, my first assist, my first goal – all those things are behind me now so that helps me be a little less nervous and definitely takes some of the pressure off,” said Leblanc whose second assist in the NHL came in Montreal against the same New Jersery squad he’ll be facing Thursday night.
“It was okay when I went back down and I think I adapted pretty well,” he continued of his transition between leagues. “The coaches in Hamilton are great and they’re all a really good bunch of guys. I was enjoying myself with them and using the opportunity to continue to try and get better.”
The improvement Leblanc referred to is something the coaching staff and the rest of the Habs are also hoping to see first hand. As David Desharnais mentioned having experienced a similar back-and-forth scenario as he tried to break into the NHL – the only place to go for the Pointe-Claire native is up.
“Going back to Hamilton probably helped him figure out some of the things that he needed to do to improve. I imagine that he’s made those adjustments now and will be ready to be even better tonight,” said Desharnais of his young teammate’s return to the lineup. “When you get called up for the first time, you really appreciate the experience but you know you’re probably not going to be there for the rest of your career. The second time, you know that you have to be better than the first.”
One of the things that could potentially help Leblanc achieve just that is the opportunity to start Thursday’s game in his natural position of center – a luxury head coach Randy Cunneyworth said he earned after his first stint with the team.
“I think he’s a guy that needs a little more freedom out there on the ice and he’s guy that can play at both ends. We used him mainly at right wing on his first call up and he did a commendable job there, so tonight he’ll be starting off at center. He’s willing to work along the walls and do the job there and we’re going to try and give him a little more freedom to work,” confirmed the Canadiens bench boss. “He’ll be playing with [Andrei] Kostitsyn, and [Yannick] Weber will be his right winger to start the game.”
After showing steady improvement before being sent back down to the AHL at the end of December, Leblanc is clearly looking to make an even bigger impact this time around.
“It’s an honor for me to be able to be called back up. It’s another chance for me to prove myself and another way to keep improving,” finished Leblanc. “I don’t know how many minutes I’m going to play or anything like that, but all I’m hoping for is to be able to come out and play a good game with lots of energy and contribute the best I can.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
Notebook - Feb. 1, 2012
Canadiens recalled Louis Leblanc from the Hamilton Bulldogs
Max Pacioretty earns Molson Cup honours for January