BROSSARD - After securing the backup role at training camp, Al Montoya is eager to get the regular season underway.
Set to begin his eighth NHL season, the 31-year-old goaltender is firmly committed to making the most of the opportunity that has been given to him by the Canadiens, who signed him to a one-year deal on July 1st before ultimately giving him the nod ahead of Mike Condon on Monday.
"I'm prepared and I'm excited. I took care of what I had to for this season. I'm ready to play. Now, it's game time, it's the fun part. One more practice before we get going," said Montoya, a veteran of 136 games with four different NHL teams dating back to his debut with Phoenix in 2008-09. "For me, it's about preparing to play every single night. Carey [Price] is a phenomenal goalie. We all know that. For myself, it's [about] building on the last few years."
Video: Al Montoya on backing up Carey Price
Before landing in Montreal, Montoya spent the last two seasons in South Florida playing behind another All-World netminder in Roberto Luongo. Last year, he registered the second-highest single season win total of his career, posting a 12-7-3 record, 2.18 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 25 appearances between the pipes, including 22 starts. That helped the Panthers claim their second-ever division title and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12.
Having never tasted postseason play before at the NHL level until last April, it's safe to say it only added to Montoya's motivation to be both physically and mentally prepared to shine during his audition with the Canadiens over the last several weeks.
"It comes down to what I've been doing. It comes down to how I've been preparing, which all goes back to my practices," explained Montoya, who spent his offseason training in his hometown of Chicago with the likes of NHLers Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Chris Kunitz and Brian Campbell, among others. "The stuff that I do off the ice prepares me to be ready, along with the video that I do and the workouts that I do with [goaltending coach] Stephane [Waite]."
Not only does captain Max Pacioretty firmly believe that his brand new teammate can deliver the goods when called upon by head coach Michel Therrien, but also that Montoya is a strong addition to a locker room that experienced several big changes over the summer.
"He's a very good goaltender. I think he plays in a way similar to Pricer in terms of style, and I think sometimes that's helpful, especially with the goalie coach coming in. You can work on the same things," shared Pacioretty, before detailing his impressions of Montoya off the ice as well. "I really like Monty. We went to the same college, so instantly we hit it off, always talking about the University of Michigan. He's a guy that it would be impossible not to like. He has a great energy and such a great personality."
Video: Al Montoya describes his mask design
And, given his lengthy resume in the pros dating back to 2005-06 with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack, the former sixth-overall selection of the New York Rangers should be a steady force those playing in front of him can rely upon and trust from the get-go.
"Having a guy that has a lot of experience, who's been in every situation - nothing is going to be new to him," mentioned defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, noting that Montoya being a seasoned veteran takes some extra weight off the shoulders of Canadiens forwards and defensemen alike. "That eases our minds."