Mark Streit has emerged as a key weapon in Guy Carbonneau's coaching arsenal.
MONTREAL - Sometimes it all comes down to seizing the moment. Since being given a little extra homework by head coach Guy Carbonneau in the form of double-duty as a forward, defenseman Mark Streit has done exactly that.
A blue-liner by trade who openly admits to his experience up-front consisting of one game as a youngster back home in Switzerland, Streit has nonetheless flourished as a forward. So much so, that Carbonneau has even begun sending Streit into the fray in shorthanded situations. Versatile as a Swiss Army knife, he has looked right at home in four games since being moved up-front.
"I'm feeling more and more comfortable, especially on the penalty kill," admitted Streit, who trailed only Francis Bouillon in ice-time on the penalty kill against the Lightning. "I'm still adjusting to playing forward, but I'm adapting well. I still consider myself a defenseman but I think it's good for me to have another weapon in my arsenal. It certainly can't hurt."
Neither will having more nights like he did against Tampa Bay. Streit, who turned 29 last Monday, opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal in the first period and went plus-3.
"I've been waiting for it for so long," said a visibly relieved Streit after notching his first goal of the season. "It was a great play by Sheldon. I just had to tap it in."
The shorthanded goal was the Canadiens eighth of the season and with Saku Koivu also scoring with a man down, the Habs now lead the league with nine.
After making the unlikely jump to the NHL from the Swiss Elite League last season, Streit is now adjusting nicely to the North American game. After only 25 games in 2006-07, Streit has already matched his point total of a year ago with a goal and 10 assists.
"I can't ask for more from Mark. He's been excellent," noted Carbonneau. "When you're behind the bench and you have a fourth-line player who you can send out on the power-play and on the penalty kill, it makes a coach's life much easier."
Carbo even turned to Streit in the dying moments to close out the game.
"Given that he's a defenseman first, Mark knows how to react when things get tight. He spends most of his time in those situations."
For a player who spent 15 games looking on from the pressbox last season, Carbo's ringing endorsement must be music to Streit's ears.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com