NEW YORK – The Rangers are one spot behind Montreal in the East and the Habs want to make sure it stays that way.
With some key veterans still back home in Montreal recovering from injuries, Jacques Martin will once again be leaning on his rising stars and young veterans to get the job done in the Big Apple.
“It’s important to see the depth we have in our organization,” identified Martin, who will have five rookies in the lineup for a second-straight night to face the Rangers. “With the number of defensemen we’ve had in the lineup already this year that’s been key for us and the young guys up front have shown some great progress. When they get an opportunity to make a difference, they can help.”
Veteran workhorses like Roman Hamrlik, Brian Gionta
and Scott Gomez
– not to mention Carey Price
, who will make his league-leading 64th
start of the year – will likely be getting the lion’s share of minutes again on Friday night, but Martin has no problem spreading some ice time around.
“The young guys brought some energy and they played well for us,” he said. “Right up until we took those penalties in the third period, I thought we did a good job executing our game plan. We had some good momentum going and the younger players were part of the solution for us.”
Nigel Dawes was one of those young players who had an immediate impact for the Habs on Thursday night. Despite playing just 5:58 in his first call-up to the big team since being traded by the Thrashers, the 26-year-old helped clinch the 3-2 Canadiens win by potting the opening goal of the shootout.
“It’s pretty special. You always want to try to contribute any way you’re called upon to and last night I got the chance to shoot in the shootout so I was pretty excited for that,” offered Dawes, who had three hits in his nine shifts against Tampa. “Anytime you can get in on the forecheck and play the body I think it helps.
“I’m not going to be throwing big hits, but if you can separate a guy from the puck that’s what you have to do,” he added. “That’s what I’m doing when I’m the most successful on the ice and I’ll have to do more of it tonight.”
With just one game as a Hab now under his belt, Dawes is still acquainting himself with fans back in la Belle Province. But having played 121 of his 209 career NHL games with the Rangers, he’ll have plenty of experience on his side when he hits the ice at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s my first game back here and I’m excited, but it’s just another game,” stressed Dawes, who was traded to Phoenix mid-way through the 2008-09 season. “There are still some guys I played with before, but there have been a lot of changes since I left. It’s just another hockey game for me.”
And Madison Square Garden is just another arena…Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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