CALGARY - Choosing a birthday venue isn't always a piece of cake, but goaltender Charlie Lindgren was mighty pleased with the location this year.
And with good reason after being recalled from the AHL's Laval Rocket last weekend just in time to join the Canadiens on their road trip through Western Canada.
"I'd rather be here than legitimately anywhere else," said Lindgren, who celebrated turning 26 on Wednesday afternoon with a practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "Being in Calgary with the boys, it's a good place to spend your birthday."
It certainly is, especially after working hard all season long to earn your first recall of the 2019-20 campaign.
Work ethic alone didn't get Lindgren another shot with the big club, though.
He credits a whole host of people with helping him stay the course in recent years to make his full-time NHL dreams a reality.
His parents Bob and Jennifer are among his biggest fans, of course, along with his younger brothers, Andrew and Ryan, and his grandfather, too.
"What comes to mind first is my family. They've been pushing me my whole life and supporting me. I've got the best family in the world," praised Lindgren, who boasts a 7-6-2 record in 16 appearances with Laval this year. "They just keep reminding me that this is what I've always worked for. That's why I'm up here. It's a credit to my family. They continue to motivate me and inspire me. They definitely keep me going. They're kind of the motor behind me."
Lindgren's girlfriend Mikkayla Johnson has also been a huge help since relocating to Montreal this season.
"We have a great dynamic. She goes through the ups and downs with me," explained Lindgren, who met Johnson when she served as the manager of his hockey team at Lakeville North High School in Minnesota. "We grew up in the same hometown, so I've know her for a long time. I can't say enough good things about her. It's kind of her first full year around hockey, but she loves spending time at the rink. I can't complain."
And then there's Rocket goaltending and video coach Marco Marciano, the man charged with working with Lindgren on a daily basis.
"He's been a huge part of my success," mentioned Lindgren, before expanding upon the progress he made since first agreeing to terms with Montreal in March 2016. "From where I was to where I am now from a technical standpoint, I'm night and day different. I have a lot more confidence in what I do technically. My compete and battle has been kind of my bread and butter, and that hasn't left me. I've taken a lot of leaps. I've still got a long way to go, but I've got a lot of gas left in the tank and I'm going to keep on getting better. It's a fun journey to be on."
Part of that journey right now is having the opportunity to learn from starter Carey Price again.
As always, Lindgren is paying close attention to every move the 13-year NHL veteran makes.
"He's a champion. He's really incredible. The way he goes about his work every single day, he's just so diligent. Watching him in practice, coming off a big game against Vancouver, he's just amazing the way he works," said Lindgren. "The way he can stop the puck, it's fun to watch. Anyone can attest to that, any fan of Montreal, any fan of goaltending. Just to be around him, it motivates me, too. It's inspiring and it's definitely a big help."
With that in mind, the St. Cloud State University product wants to take full advantage of this latest break.
"This is the best league in the world. This is what I've worked for my whole life. It's where I think I should be, and I want to stay up here," said Lindgren. "I'll just continue working hard every single day and keep on getting better. I love being here, so I just want to stay."