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Rising to the occasion

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
QUEBEC CITY – Michel Therrien’s troops began the second stage of training camp in style on Monday night.


With a sell-out crowd of 18,249 fans in attendance to mark the first professional game ever contested at the Videotron Centre, the Canadiens registered their second straight preseason victory with a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“The start we had really was a by-product of the guys being excited to play this game. They understood the importance of the first professional game at the Videotron Centre,” offered Therrien, whose squad upped its preseason record to 2-1-2 by keeping Mike Johnston’s contingent at bay for the better part of Monday night’s game. “I could sense the guys were excited to come to Quebec City and play.”

It’s safe to say Lars Eller – and linemates Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Semin – certainly were, as the trio picked up right where it left off in previous outings and clicked from the start. When all was said and done, they combined to generate another four points, accounting for two goals and two assists in the win.

“It’s been feeling better and better with every practice and every game that we play together. We get to learn each other’s tendencies a little more,” offered Eller, who scored his first preseason goal on Monday night, which ultimately proved to be the game-winning tally, too. “I’ve played a lot with Chucky [in the past], so I always knew we had a good thing going. But, with Semin, he’s fitting in really good. I think we’re starting to find each other more and more. Obviously, there’s room for improvement, but the fact that [we’re doing well] early is very encouraging.”

The success the threesome has enjoyed thus far doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise to Eller, who believes it’s just a matter of similar skill sets coming together under the right circumstances.

“[Chucky and I] just both had a lot of different linemates the last couple of years. We’re just building off where we left off. I like playing with him and I think he likes playing with me. We can both finish and we can both pass. We try to be aggressive and force turnovers, and Semin is doing those same things,” explained Eller, who is clearly adapting well to his move from center to left-wing heading into his sixth full NHL campaign in 2015-16. “I think all three of us are having fun right now.”

The Canadiens’ bench boss is definitely in agreement there, praising their effort in a game in which he featured a veteran lineup befitting the opening of a brand new building. 

“We’ve sensed the chemistry between those guys since Day 1. They have fun playing together. The chemistry has been there all along and they’re continuing to enjoy success,” shared Therrien, whose squad will enjoy a well-deserved day off on Tuesday before returning to practice on Wednesday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “I really like what I see from that line combination. They produced offensively again [against Pittsburgh] and they handled the puck well.”

More importantly, though, the CH – as a group – offered up the type of performance they’d been looking for with the preseason schedule winding down and the start of the regular season just a week-and-a-half away.

“You can’t underestimate winning in the preseason. I’ve seen a lot of teams lose a lot of games in the preseason. I remember that was us three or four years ago. You get off to a bad start as well, and now you start chasing. I think what we needed to do was bring the right attitude regardless of their lineup, and I think we did,” confided Eller, who believes the victory did a lot of good for the team as a whole with just two preseason games to go. “I don’t think we played our best, but we came out with the right attitude, we had the right effort and we won. We felt a little bit better about ourselves than we did before the game.”

And, they even made a little history along the way, too.

“It was awesome. It was a great crowd. It was really, really fun. It was a very good experience for us,” concluded Eller, referencing the large contingent of fans on site supporting the Canadiens in their annual visit to La Vieille Capitale.  “We’ve been coming here five years in a row. Every time we come up here, there’s a big buzz in the building. There’s also a buzz in town, and you see it regardless if they have the new building or not. Now, I think they’re taking the steps needed to get the team they so desperately want. I don’t see why they shouldn’t get a team in the future.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.


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