BROSSARD – While many out there are suffering from a bad case of the Mondays, three Habs rookies woke up to great news on Monday morning.
The 2-1 loss to Nashville on Saturday night proved costly for the team with Brandon Prust out for four weeks with an upper-body injury, and Daniel Briere sidelined indefinitely after suffering a concussion. Neither was present at the Bell Sports Complex, though Douglas Murray, George Parros and Alexei Emelin, all of whom are recovering from injury, skated alongside strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard.
The absences of Prust and Briere paved the way for the recall of wingers Mike Blunden and Patrick Holland from the Hamilton Bulldogs. After starting their seasons off well in the AHL and impressing Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre, both players returned to Montreal with strong endorsements.
“Marc [Bergevin] went to watch the game against the Marlies on Sunday night and then met with Sylvain Lefebvre. They decided that Blunden and Holland were the best choices,” mentioned Habs head coach Michel Therrien.
While this is his first NHL stint, Holland can at least count seeing on a couple of familiar faces in the locker room, including that of sophomore Brendan Gallagher.
“The first time we played against each other was in a minor hockey tournament when we were 10. I have a picture with both of us taking a faceoff against each other,” said the 21-year-old right winger, who is expected to suit up for his first-ever NHL game on Tuesday. “We played against each other in Bantam, and then in Junior. Everybody around the WHL knew Gallagher. I always had a lot of respect for his style of play and I wanted to add that to my game as well.
“Last year, we lived together in Hamilton until the lockout ended and he went up [to play full-time with the Habs]. He’s a guy I feel really comfortable with,” added the Lethbridge, AB native. “When I was in the changing room this morning, Gally walked in, saw me and started laughing. It was pretty cool.”
Promoted alongside occasional Hamilton linemate Blunden, Holland also had good things to say about the player who will be lining up on the left flank of the Canadiens’ new-look fourth line that will be centered by Ryan White.
“I love playing with [Blunden], I played with him quite a bit last season. We get him the puck in the slot and he puts it in, so it’d be pretty awesome if I could set him up again,” noted Holland.
He also liked the versatility of the line composed of three right-hand shots, a rarity at the NHL level.
“On paper, Blunden is the left winger and I’m the right winger, but we’ve had these roles in Hamilton quite a few times and whichever side we’re on, we can play that position,” said Holland.
Speaking of the left wing, rookie Michael Bounival, who has provided speed, grit and an offensive punch skating on the port side of the ice, was promoted to a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta at practice on Monday morning. He also took part in power play drills with the two established veterans.
“I really like [Bournival’s] quickness; it brings good things to the team. We also wanted everybody on the same page regarding what we are doing on the power play,” acknowledged Therrien.
The Habs bench boss also revealed that he asked the recently promoted forward to find a place to live in Montreal, foreshadowing an extended stay in the city for Bournival, who disappointed last year with the Bulldogs before turning his game around and making the Habs out of training camp.
With injuries taking a toll on his regular lineup, Therrien refused to panic, noting that the team is off to a good start despite the setbacks.
“We are not going to change our style of play in 24 hours. We’ll need to continue on the same path. When you look at the last game, the first half of the game was challenging, but we played well in the second half,” insisted Therrien. “We had a lot of scoring chances and we could have won that game. Yes, we’re facing adversity, but as a group we like the challenge."
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com
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