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Recap: Petry rises to the challenge

Habs defenseman had big shoes to fill early in the season, but he seized the opportunity with flying colors

by Pierre-Antoine Mercier, translated by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - Jeff Petry made up for the Shea Weber's absence earlier in the season, and in doing so he helped the Canadiens maintain a winning record without the services of their captain.

Montreal went 11-8-5 through the 24 games they played sans Weber to start the season.

Petry was the Habs rearguard who most filled the void created by Weber's absence. In those 24 games, the 31-year-old American was deployed for 598:54 of ice time, which is 137:54 more than the next-most-used Montreal defenseman, Jordie Benn.

Through the first 24 regular season games in the NHL, Petry was the second-most-used blue-liner in the League, with only Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen ahead of him at 609:50.

Video: CAR@MTL: Petry roofs shot off Domi's pass

What's more, Petry set a new personal high when he was sent out to patrol the Montreal blue line for 33:51 against the Washington Capitals on November 19 at the Bell Centre.

Now in his fourth full season with the Canadiens, Petry's performance certainly did not go unnoticed by his teammates and coaches.

"I think he's been especially good for us this year. That's important because of Shea's injury," praised head coach Claude Julien following that game on November 19. "Petey is one of the players who raised the level of his game and helped us fill the void in Weber's absence."

Video: CGY@MTL: Petry nets one-timer for PPG

Following Weber's return, the Edmonton Oilers' second-round pick (45th overall) in 2006 kept up his pace - so much so that he finished the 2018-19 with new career highs in goals (13), assists (33), points (46), and hits (190).

Those 46 points helped him tie for 15th place among NHL rearguards in scoring, while his 190 hits were 12th.

The Detroit, MI native made a point of lighting the lamp at key moments throughout the season. Petry finished tied for fourth among blue-liners with four game-winning goals, and was tied for second among defensemen with two overtime goals.

Video: MTL@BOS: Petry bats in OT winner with backhand

It's also worth noting that the Habs' No. 26 suited up for all 82 games for a second consecutive season.

During his exit interview at the end of the season, Petry acknowledged that Weber's return gave him a boost as the workload was readjusted.

"I think my game elevated a little bit when he came back," described the Canadiens' top-scoring defenseman this season. "Playing a little fewer minutes, I was more fresh. I think that helped my energy level."

Video: Jeff Petry on the sting from missing the playoffs

As for the way the Habs' season ended, Petry was categorical. He wants to use the feeling of disappointment as motivation for his off-season training so that he'll be more ready than ever come training camp.

"To be honest, this one hurts more than last year, when we knew we weren't going to make the playoffs pretty early on. This one, we were fighting until the end and just missing by a couple of points. For everyone in here, we know this feeling," he concluded. "We're going to take some time off and then, when it's time to get back to work, you're going to remember this feeling and use that to prepare for next year."

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