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Making his presence felt

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – After spending the first five weeks of the season on the press gallery, Greg Pateryn wasted little time proving his worth on the Canadiens’ blue line.

The 25-year-old defenseman has come on strong since making his regular season debut on November 14th against the Colorado Avalanche, providing Michel Therrien’s troops with an all-important physical presence on the back end in the absence of fellow rearguard – and heavy-hitter – Alexei Emelin. Pateryn has amassed 18 hits in the last five games along with a plus-1 differential, while logging nearly 14 minutes of ice time per outing.

“I like that [physical play]. I think it’s a part of my game. That’s what gets me in the game, too. I think when things are chippy like that, being involved physically, it really helps,” shared Pateryn, who boasts 68 hits in 25 career NHL games since making his debut with the Canadiens back in 2012-13.

That particular aspect of the Sterling Heights, MI native’s game was on full display in the Canadiens’ most recent home-and-home series against the New York Islanders. Pateryn stood up perennial All-Star John Tavares on Friday night in Brooklyn, before laying Calvin de Haan out on Sunday night at the Bell Centre in a 4-2 win.

It’s safe to say the Canadiens’ bench boss has taken notice of Pateryn’s penchant for throwing his 6-foot-2, 223-pound frame around with a purpose.

“Greg brings a presence defensively with our defensive group. That’s for sure. He’s really decisive. He has a chance to be back in the lineup. He was getting really well-prepared. He was working hard in practice. He has a good attitude, and when he had a chance to play, he certainly took full advantage of it,” mentioned Therrien, who has always appreciated the way Pateryn has gone about his business both on and off the ice. “He’s been solid. He’s very strong with his decision-making and the way he’s been playing. Young guys often have a tough time getting in the lineup, but it’s not because we aren’t satisfied with him. It’s just a matter of circumstances.”

Fourteen games into the year, the Canadiens elected to send Pateryn to their AHL affiliate in St. John’s for a three-game conditioning stint. While he didn’t put up the best of numbers with Sylvain Lefebvre’s squad – registering a minus-6 differential – the time with the IceCaps appears to have given Pateryn all the preparation he needed to step in and contribute to the Canadiens’ cause right away.

“I think it can be hard mentally [to watch from afar], but you just have to stick with it. You’re not going to be thrown into a spot right away. That’s the reality of the situation. I was kind of anticipating that,” explained Pateryn, who also generated 10 shots on goal during his time in Newfoundland. “It’s hard to sit out longer than you expect, but you’ve got to be a professional about it and just always stay ready.”

The University of Michigan grad did just that, and has thrived in his role alongside Tom Gilbert.

“I think we’ve had chemistry from the start, but now that we’re getting a few more games under the belt with each other, we’re starting to communicate better and we know where each other is on the ice,” offered Pateryn, who is trying to absorb as much as he can from the 10-year NHL veteran. “It’s fun to play with him. He’s a really reliable and safe guy to play with. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

That includes picking his spots to join the forwards on offense, something that has enabled the Canadiens to be a formidable threat all season long. While Pateryn has been held off the scoresheet so far this year, it isn’t for a lack of trying.

“Michel stresses being responsible in our own zone first, and then it’s about the four-man rush. When you have a fourth guy joining the rush, it really throws everything off for the other team,” shared Pateryn, who picked up a season-high three shots on goal on Sunday night. “The forwards do a great job at filling in for us back there [when we do join the rush]. They take good care of the puck because if they turn it over in a bad area, it can create an odd-man rush coming the other way.”

With a good understanding of what’s expected of him – and by playing within himself – it's safe to say Pateryn has quickly earned the respect and trust of his head coach and teammates alike.

“Guys [like Greg and Jarred Tinordi] understand the situation right now. I explained it to them. There’s a reason why sometimes they’re utilized a little bit less,” concluded Therrien. “They’re good teammates. They’re patient. They work hard. When you have the right attitude, you can make good progress. Greg Pateryn is a good example of that.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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