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Rookie night in Montreal

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Kyle Chipchura notched his first NHL goal against the Sabres.
MONTREAL –  Kyle Chipchura just can’t shake Mikhail Grabovski. After being drafted the same day and sharing a Calder Cup championship with the Bulldogs this past summer, they were at it again, only this time at the NHL level.

While the Canadiens were busy handing the Sabres a 4-2 loss, 2004 Habs draft picks Chipchura and Grabovski had their hands full making history.

Grabovski’s moment came on a power play early in the first period, with the speedy winger picking up his first NHL point by helping set the table for Bryan Smolinski’s goal that made it 1-0.

Chipchura had to wait a little longer than Grabovski. After fighting for the puck down low, the 21-year-old center fired a seemingly harmless shot at Ryan Miller that somehow made it past the All-Star netminder.

“It wasn’t the way I imagined it would be since I was a little kid. I was supposed to go end to end, deke out the whole team and then score,” said Chipchura, whose first goal comes four games into his NHL career. “I just threw it at the net and then [Tom Kostopoulos] set a nice screen there for me. It sure wasn’t the hardest shot in the world, but I doubt Miller ever saw it.”

As for the newest addition to Chipchura’s personal memorabilia collection—first NHL goal puck, Kostopoulos took care of everything for his rookie linemate.

“All I know is TK grabbed it for me, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’m sure it will make its way back to me at some point,” said Chipchura, who isn’t expecting any style points for his first NHL scoring celebration. “To be honest, I didn’t know what to do with myself and everything happened so fast. It just feels good to get it out of the way and help the guys pick up the win tonight.”

Mikhail Grabovski picked up his first NHL point on Saturday night.
Seeing his good buddy and former Bulldogs’ teammate also break the ice wasn’t a big surprise to Chipchura.

“I knew it was just a matter of time for him,” said Chipchura. “I talk to him whenever I can and he looked much more comfortable out there tonight.”

That’s news to Grabovski, who didn’t look relaxed even after the game was in the books.

“Kyle said that? No, trust me I’m still nervous every game,” said Grabovski with only a bit of translation help from Russian reporter Genadi Boguslavski. “The hardest thing for me has been not playing as much as I’m used to, and all the penalties don’t help either. My legs get cold on the bench until it’s finally my turn to play.”

While Grabovski may not be getting the ice-time he was accustomed to in his AHL days quite yet, he did have over 20 years of NHL experience alongside him against the Sabres in the form of Mathieu Dandenault and Smolinski.

“Grabo really energized our line tonight,” admitted Smolinski. “I think maybe letting him play on the wing instead of center gave him fewer responsibilities and more of a chance to focus on offense. He never stopped working and it paid off.”

Manny Almela is a writer for
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