BROSSARD – Spacek makes his return, Nokelainen and Blunden make their debuts, and Budaj gets his first start as a Hab.
With eight points on the table for the last week of October, the Canadiens know they have the perfect opportunity to get their season back on track. The last-minute additions of Petteri Nokelainen and Mike Blunden to Monday night’s lineup look to add some bulk and grit to the Habs’ fourth line.
“I jumped on a plane about 24 hours ago. There was a storm in Chicago that slowed things down a bit, but I traveled all night and managed to make it here for the morning skate and that’s what matters,” explained Nokelainen of his trip to Montreal that ended with him jumping on the Brossard ice within a couple of minutes of his new teammates.
“It’s always a surprise when you get traded, especially at the start of the season,” admitted the Habs’ newest arrival. “But it’s great to come and play in a hockey market like this. Saku [Koivu] texted me yesterday just to let me know what a great place this was to play.”
The current Canadiens roster made their introductions one-by-one between drills at the morning skate, offering up a series of quick hellos and handshakes. For the Habs’ new No. 15, the team’s record to this point in the season isn’t an issue – he’s just content to fill the role he was brought in to play.
“I’ve only been here for about five minutes, so I don’t really know what the situation is. But I’m pretty sure my job here is going to be to contribute on the penalty kill and win some face offs,” finished Nokelainen who brings 58,8% efficiency into the face off circle while also representing the team’s only center with a right-handed shot.
Also arriving for the morning skate, Mike Blunden found himself once again donning the bleu-blanc-rouge after playing in five of the Canadiens’ eight preseason match-ups.
“It was a shock. We were doing team building in Hamilton when Brock [Trotter] got pulled aside. We were all surprised that he got traded, and then about 40 minutes later, they let me know that I was going up, so I’m just really happy to be here,” said Blunden whose 6-foot-4, 218 lbs frame ranks him as the team’s second largest player behind only Hal Gill.
“I know the Bell Centre is a loud place, so I’m sure I’ll feel nervous for the first couple of shifts before I settle down,” expressed Blunden of his regular season debut. “But I always just try to go out and give it everything I’ve got on every shift, whether I’m playing in the AHL or the NHL.”
Along with some new faces up front, Habs fans can also expect to see a familiar one back on defense as veteran Jaroslav Spacek makes his return to the lineup to face the Panthers.
“I’m very happy to be back. There’s nothing tougher than just sitting there and watching the games. I’d always rather be out there with the guys and I’m hoping I can help,” dropped Spacek, who was shelved for five games with an upper body injury.
“I’ve been running some drills and was just waiting to get cleared by the doctors, but I’m feeling good now and there’s no pain so I’ll be ready to go,” added Spacek. “We have a lot of young guys on the back end right now, so I’m going to try and talk with them as much as possible during the game and always be communicating between shifts – hopefully that will help make a difference.”
After starting the first seven games of the 2011-12 season, Carey Price will get a rest in the first game of a busy week as backup Peter Budaj gets set to step into the crease against Florida.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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