BROSSARD - There's a real sense of anticipation in the Canadiens' locker room ahead of Thursday night's season opener.
Before departing for North Carolina, Claude Julien's troops expressed their genuine eagerness to officially get the 2019-20 campaign underway.
It won't be long before they invade PNC Arena, though, with the matchup against the Hurricanes on the horizon.
"It's always exciting to get a fresh start on the season," said goaltender Carey Price, who will begin his 13th year in the NHL ranks. "Everybody's at their freshest right now. We've got a clean slate, and we're just looking to get off to a good start and focus on going 1-for-1."
Like Price, assistant captain Brendan Gallagher is no stranger to season openers himself.
Admittedly, the 27-year-old right-winger still gets particularly amped up to hit the ice for the first of 82 scheduled contests.
"To be honest, it's really the only game I really get a little bit of butterflies for anymore," explained Gallagher, who is just 12 outings shy of reaching the 500 games played mark. "It's been so long since you played. You want to see if you still have it, so it's fun to get out there and really start competing. We had a little bit in preseason, but it's nothing like regular season. We're all looking forward to it."
And defenseman Cale Fleury is no exception. The 20-year-old Calgary native will be making his NHL debut versus Rod Brind'Amour's contingent.
He'll also be squaring off against his older brother, Haydn, who patrols the Hurricanes' blueline.
"I don't think I could've asked for a better game to start off with. It's unbelievable that my first game is against my brother. It's pretty cool," mentioned Fleury. "He's definitely been a huge role model for me growing up."
Video: Cale Fleury on squaring off against his brother
To celebrate the occasion, Haydn and Cale's parents, John and Sandy, made the trek to the Tar Heel State from Alberta and will be in the crowd.
"They might go no jerseys for the first one. We'll see," responded Fleury with a laugh, when asked whether John or Sandy would be sporting Canadiens or Hurricanes colors for the all-important family affair. "They'd love to get some half-and-half ones made."
All kidding aside, though, this is a significant game for the CH. They'd relish the chance to get the positive vibes rolling early.
"We realize the challenge we have ahead of us. We're in a really strong division and we're also in a good conference. We'll have to play big hockey this year to make the playoffs," insisted Julien. "To do that, we have to start the season off on the right foot."
Video: Claude Julien's press conference
Gallagher is certainly in agreement there, especially after the way things played out last year when the squad fell just a few points shy of earning a postseason berth.
"When you have an entire summer to look back and think about where you lost a couple of points, a lot of games kind of stand out," said Gallagher. "You don't want to have that feeling again going into the summer, and now's our chance to kind of stop talking about last year and go and change the result."