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Stay or leave

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Head coach Michel Therrien has a good idea of what his lineup will look like come next week in Toronto, but a few players still don’t know if they’ll be in the mix on opening night.

With the start of the regular season on the horizon, 29 players remain at training camp, including the likes of veteran Tomas Fleischmann, and young guns Charles Hudon and Jacob De La Rose. While all three bring something very different to the table, they all continue to battle it out on the ice with the same objective in mind – to impress the Canadiens’ brass and secure full-time employment in Montreal for the 2015-16 campaign.

“We know where we’re headed with our team. I see [the last few days of training camp] as preparation for the first game of the season. A good practice [on Friday], two more next week. My focus is only on the first game of the year,” offered Therrien, who will be whittling down his current training camp roster of 17 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders in short order. “[Saturday night] is a preseason game. We want to improve certain details in our game, but up until now I’ve liked the way we’ve progressed. We still have decisions to make based on what we’ve seen since the start of camp, but we have a pretty good idea.”

Chief among those decisions will be what to do with Fleischmann, who came to camp on a professional tryout contract in hopes of getting a fresh start with the CH. The 31-year-old has thrived in preseason play on a line with Dale Weise and David Desharnais, and Therrien has certainly taken notice.

“Fleischmann is an intelligent player. He plays very well at both ends of the rink, so he’s responsible. David has been having a good camp. He’s very patient with the puck. Weise, meanwhile, has been chipping in with his speed and his tenacity,” praised Therrien, whose squad will close out its preseason schedule on Saturday night at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. “The chemistry is definitely there right now. We’re hoping to see it continue because it gives us more depth offensively.”

While Fleischmann has been satisfied with his showing at camp thus far, he knows full well that nothing is set in stone just yet.

“I’m not thinking about [the fact that I don’t have a contract]. I’m just doing what I do, and that’s playing hockey. Contracts and things like that I leave to my agent. I’m just trying to do my best out here, and I’m enjoying every day so far,” shared Fleischmann, who has one goal, three points and 11 shots on goal in three preseason outings. “The first day I came here, I felt like I was a part of the team. That helps me produce and play like I’m playing right now. I hope I can keep it up. I just have to keep showing my ability and play the right way.”

Weise thinks Fleischmann can certainly do that – and a lot more – if given the opportunity to make La Belle Province his new hockey home.

“He brings everything. He’s a guy that has put up numbers in this league. He’s got experience. He’s a good skater, and he’s got great skills. He’s a really smart player, and he always makes the right play. He’s just really easy to play with,” explained Weise, who is clearly enjoying the chance to ply his trade alongside the Czech forward. “If it was up to me, he’s got my vote. He brings a lot to our line. Our line has a lot of chemistry, so he’s got my vote, for sure.”

For his part, De La Rose is trying to extend his stay with the big club after getting a good taste of what the NHL ranks had to offer in 2014-15. In addition to playing 33 regular season games with the Canadiens, the 20-year-old Swede also suited up for all 12 postseason contests, too.

“I think management has got to do what’s best for my development and what they think is best for me, so I’m comfortable with whatever happens,” offered De La Rose, who has been held off the scoresheet in four preseason games so far this year. “I haven’t been feeling any added pressure [in this situation]. It’s still hockey. I love what I do out there. I think we all knew about this. There are a lot of good players out there. It’s tough. I’m doing the best I can and I’m not taking any days off. I’m just trying to prove that I’m good enough to be here.”

Needless to say, Hudon is taking a similar approach to things right now.

“It’s tough to say [where I belong]. I learned a lot last year in Hamilton. I learned a lot from the veterans. Gabriel Dumont and Sylvain Lefebvre helped me a lot. Every player dreams of playing in the NHL. The role you’re given is often a lot different than the one you have in the AHL,” shared the 21-year-old Alma, QC native, who was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team last season after putting up 19 goals and 57 points in 75 games. “I think the best thing for me is to stay here. I’ll accept whatever role I’m given. That’s for sure. If I’m sent down, though, I’ll accept it, too, and work hard to get back here. But, I’m doing what I have to do on the ice. The other guys are doing the same thing.”

Fortunately, each of those three men – and a few others – will know exactly where they stand soon enough.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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