BROSSARD - Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't played in nearly two months, but that's all about to change on Monday night.
The 36-year-old Russian sniper will make his Canadiens debut against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre.
It will mark his first outing since November 9 when he was still a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
"I'm pumped. I'm very excited. The way the city and the fans have responded, it's crazy," said Kovalchuk, following the morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex. "I have a lot of things to prove. I'm not going to do anything special, but I just want to try and help the team win."
Head coach Claude Julien will be featuring the 13-year NHL veteran on the top line with left-winger Tomas Tatar and centerman Phillip Danault.
It's a fitting spot for a player who boasts 436 goals and 859 points in 897 career games, of course.
"It's a lot of responsibility," said Kovalchuk, shortly after his first full practice with his new linemates. "But I'm feeling good and I'm ready to go."
Should the Canadiens find themselves on the power play, Kovalchuk will undoubtedly be a key weapon versus Winnipeg.
He's eagerly anticipating the opportunity to work his magic with the man advantage.
"Playing on the power play is nothing new for me," mentioned Kovalchuk, who has 143 power play goals on his resume. "I'll be playing with guys like Max and Webby there. Obviously, Shea has a pretty good one-timer. We've got to use that."
As far as the rationale behind placing Kovalchuk alongside Tatar and Danault is concerned, Julien offered up a rather straightforward explanation.
"We're putting him in a position where we want him to have success and where he can help us," indicated Julien. "We're going to keep an eye on him because it's his first game since November. If he seems tired or he's struggling, we're going to adjust. But we want him to help us. We have to give him the chance. We have to put him in a position where he can do that."
One thing's for sure, Kovalchuk is already feeling comfortable in his surroundings.
And that bodes well for the club as a whole.
"I feel like I've been here for a long time. The guys gave me a warm welcome, and I appreciate it very much," said Kovalchuk. "But the win is going to bring the group more together, so we need that."
Video: Ilya Kovalchuk on making his Habs debut
Both Tatar and Danault are committed to making the trio with Kovalchuk a real success.
The Canadiens' leading point-getter thus far this season stressed the importance of communication when it comes to creating chemistry on the fly.
"We just have to talk and help each other, talk a lot on the bench about what we have to do," insisted Tatar. "I think the stats speak for themselves. He's a great player. He's a legend in the league. We just have to help him adjust to a new team."
Video: Tomas Tatar on making things work with Ilya Kovalchuk
It certainly didn't take Danault long to recognize the incredible tools Kovalchuk brings to the table.
"He's a very offensive player, capable of making excellent plays as well. I think his experience will be big for us. It'll be an excellent fit," praised Danault. "You can tell he's an excellent shooter. He's always been one. He has a lot of goals in a lot of games."
Righting the ship
The Canadiens will be looking to snap a five-game winless streak on Monday night.
Kovalchuk's presence will surely be a big help, but Julien believes getting back on the winning track ultimately comes down to playing smart hockey at both ends of the ice.
"The small details make a difference. We saw the goals we gave up. It's the small details, the mistakes here and there," said Julien. "We have to make less than the other team and capitalize on the chances we have more than the other team. It isn't complicated."
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET.