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Making strides

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – With the Canadiens riding a four-game winning streak into Saturday night’s tilt against the Predators, the consensus among the players is that their individual games are progressing, albeit in different ways.

Rookie defensemen Jarred Tinordi, who suited up in the win over the Blue Jackets, is getting used to his role on the Habs blue line. Since he hasn’t yet been told by members of the coaching staff to find a place to live, the towering American has been calling a Montreal hotel room his home for the past two months.

“I’ve gotten to know the hotel’s staff quite well,” said the Burnsville, MN native with a laugh. “There’s no kitchen or fridge in my room, so it’s eating out every single meal. Basically, in my room I have some snacks which won’t go bad, and that’s about it. There’s no room service, so after 9 o’clock at night I just go out and get a sandwich or something like that.”

While grabbing a late-night sub may not be anyone’s idea of fine dining, Tinordi himself is just fine with the idea of being a sub, alternating starts on the Canadiens blue line with fellow rookie Nathan Beaulieu.

“It doesn’t matter whether we play each game or every third game, it’s our job to show up and play well every chance we get. It’s tough to not play every game, but it’s a good challenge for both of us and a chance to prove ourselves,” explained Tinordi.

One full-time player who has continued to prove his worth since the start of the season has been third-year rearguard Raphael Diaz. Unsure about his role on the squad with the arrival of veteran Douglas Murray over the summer, the Swiss defenseman has instead blossomed into a dependable all-around player capable of shutting down the opposition and chipping in on offense. Typical of his understated personality, the former EV Zug star is quick to attribute his stellar play to the strong play of his teammates.

“Everybody is supporting each other well defensively, and Carey Price has made incredible saves. That’s the key to our success,” stated Diaz.

Head coach Michel Therrien, however, believes that the 27-year-old deserves much of the credit for his terrific start to the 2013-14 campaign.

“[Diaz] is a player to whom we’ve given an important role on the team; he’s earned those responsibilities. He’s a player with a lot of quickness and he’s solid defensively. It’s just his third year in the league, so we think he will continue to improve his game,” praised Therrien.

Meanwhile, assistant captain Andrei Markov is as effective as ever on all parts of the ice.

“I really like the chemistry between Markov and [his new defence partner] Subban,” acknowledged Therrien. “He’s a player with excellent vision and a gift for always making his partners look good by setting them up with quality shooting opportunities. He’s not the most verbal guy, but I really like the way he sees the game and how he expresses himself on the ice.”

While Markov has a modest four points through seven games, P.K. Subban, the chief beneficiary of the Russian’s savvy playmaking abilities, leads all NHL defensemen with 10 points on the season. Without a doubt, Therrien hopes that Tinordi and Diaz can follow in Markov’s footsteps and get better with time.

On the injury front, Max Pacioretty was diagnosed on Thursday with a strained hamstring. This is decidedly a best-case scenario, considering the sniper will only be out for three weeks rather than several months as initially feared. Elsewhere, George Parros’ concussion symptoms have subsided considerably; he skated with Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray after Friday’s practice, and is making strides towards a return to action.

Jack Han is a writer for

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