BROSSARD - The thought of one day playing 1,000 NHL regular-season games never crossed Tomas Plekanec's mind growing up.
It was certainly on his mind on Monday, though, as the 35-year-old centerman prepared for his milestone contest against the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre.
"I would have never dreamed to get to this point," said Plekanec, who was selected 71st overall by the Canadiens back in 2001 - and has since played 982 games in a Habs uniform. "A lot of credit goes to people behind the scenes. Trainers got me through so many games that I probably wouldn't have played, teammates carried me through the games where I wasn't really good, and obviously family… It might be about me, but it's more about people around me that helped me throughout my career, through those ups and downs."
Video: Tomas Plekanec on playing his 1,000th career NHL game
The 15-year NHL veteran has had an important impact on many of his teammates as time has marched on, including assistant captain Brendan Gallagher.
"I think everybody's excited to watch Pleky. What he's meant to this team, what he's meant to this franchise and this organization, what he's meant to all the players that he's played with, everyone takes a little bit from him," explained Gallagher, who has shared a locker room with Plekanec since making his NHL debut during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. "His battle and his journey to get to the NHL are pretty special as well, so I think we're all pretty happy for him."
Video: Tomas Plekanec prepares for his 1,000th NHL game
Likewise, head coach Claude Julien is pleased to be able to mark the occasion with one of his favorite vets. The Canadiens' bench boss was at the helm of the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs when Plekanec first arrived in North America in the early 2000s.
"I had him when he first came to Canada, and I have him in his 1,000th game. I'm happy to be a part of his celebration. It's a great achievement for a player," said Julien. "He brought a lot of good things to the organization."
These days, Julien is glad to still have Plekanec on board - especially with a young team that can learn a lot from the Kladno, Czech Republic native.
"He's a good pro, he trains hard, he's a good example. He has a lot of experience to share with a young team right now," mentioned Julien. "We also need that experience on the ice. Faceoffs, he's really good there. He's well-respected by his teammates and the coaching staff. He has a lot of qualities that have allowed him to spend such a long time with the team."
Video: Claude Julien's pre-game press conference
Tatar, Ouellet battle their former squad
Forward Tomas Tatar suited up for 407 games in a Detroit Red Wings uniform before the Michigan-based franchise dealt him to the Vegas Golden Knights last February.
Monday night's game will mark his second outing against his former team - but his first as a member of the Canadiens.
"Detroit will always be special in my heart. They gave me a chance to play in the NHL. I spent a lot of years there, so it's a special game for me," said Tatar, who is coming off a three-point effort against the Penguins, scoring twice and adding an assist in Saturday night's shootout victory. "I know a lot of guys. I want to beat them. It's going to be a fun game. Our main focus is going to be on us, not on them."
Video: Tomas Tatar on playing against his former team
Defenseman Xavier Ouellet is taking a similar approach into his first opportunity to face off against the club that bought out his contract in June.
"This game definitely has a special significance for me, but I'm trying not to think about it," shared Ouellet. "Most importantly, I want to help our team win games and I think that's what I've been doing since the start. Collectively, we just have to continue doing our work."
Carey Price was back at practice with the rest of his teammates on Monday after battling the flu, but it will be Antti Niemi who is charged with going up against Jeff Blashill's contingent.
It will mark Niemi's second straight start.
Andrew Shaw, meanwhile, will be unavailable for the tilt after coming down with the flu.
Matthew Peca took Shaw's spot on a line with Plekanec and Charles Hudon at the morning skate. Peca was a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh.