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Plenty of smiles and a few key lessons

The Canadiens practiced in front of thousands of fans at the Bell Centre on Sunday

by Joanie Godin. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski. @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - For his second practice as head coach of the Canadiens, Claude Julien was privy to a unique Bell Centre experience, leading his troops through the annual Provigo Fan Practice on Sunday.

Julien continued going about his work of installing his systems, while keeping things rather light.

"We're trying to take it all in a little bit at a time," mentioned Shea Weber. "Obviously, Claude didn't want to come in and just overwhelm everyone. At the same time, we've got to all get on the same page here and all be working and trying to do the same thing if we're all going to achieve the same goal."

In order to achieve that objective, Julien asked his players to compete hard and battle, indicated Andrew Shaw.

"If we play the right way in our own end, then our chances are going to come. I think as players we like that. Changing some systems, obviously, it's going to take some time. He's not coming in and changing everything at once. He's going to ween us into it a little bit. I like what I see so far and I expect good things from it," said the Canadiens' No. 65.

Video: Shaw on the work that needs to be done

One thing is certain - Julien's charges are paying very close attention to their new bench boss and they have complete confidence in him.

"Everyone believes in Claude. He has a lot of experience, a Stanley Cup, and another Stanley Cup Finals appearance. He's important to us. We just have to listen and apply what he's telling us because his system is excellent. If we do that, we shouldn't have any trouble going forward," said Phillip Danault.

Shaw, meanwhile, spoke of Julien as a players' coach.

"Players like to play for him. He gets the best out of his players. He uses systems that allow us to use our creativity in the offensive zone, as long as we're being structured in the neutral zone and the defensive zone. That's going to give us odd-man breaks, which players love. You get those chances from playing good defense. It's a dangerous combination," praised Shaw.

A motivational smile

Michael McCarron only spent a few days in the AHL ranks during his most recent stint with the St. John's IceCaps, but a lot of things transpired while he was away. 

On a personal note, he experienced a massive snowstorm first-hand - "Did you see that snowstorm out there? That was crazy!" cracked McCarron - while professionally he is now trying to impress a new man in charge with the big club.

Interestingly enough, the towering American forward was in uniform on Saturday afternoon before even having the opportunity to practice with the team and work out under Julien's watch. Was that a confidence booster of sorts for McCarron?

"Yes, but I'm a young guy. It's day by day. I went down there and got some minutes. I played more than I do here, but that's all part of the way it goes. I go down there, I get some touches and play well, and I feel like I belong here when I come back up. Claude also talked to me when I got back and I felt right at home. Everything is going well so far," mentioned McCarron.

Video: Michael McCarron on his return to Montreal

The Michigan native was also caught by surprise on Sunday when a journalist mentioned that Julien thought he had a bright future ahead of him in the NHL.

"Thanks, Claude. That's nice to hear, but I know I have to try to stay in that mindset where I've got to come in and work to get in this lineup and show that I belong here. First impressions are huge. Hopefully, I made a good one on him on Saturday," said McCarron.

The 21-year-old also noticed a change of atmosphere within the locker room upon his return to Montreal.

"Claude brings a lot of excitement and energy to this room. He comes in with a huge smile. It really lightens up the room and you can see that with the guys and the way we're carrying ourselves now. There's more energy in the locker room and the atmosphere has been great," said McCarron.

Enjoying the experience

Players enjoyed everything about the Provigo Canadiens Fan Practice festivities on Sunday. 

"It's pretty cool. I've never seen anything like that. It's fun to be a part of," admitted Weber, who hadn't experienced anything quite like it as a member of the Nashville Predators.

Danault, meanwhile, was pleased to be able to thank the fans for their unwavering support all season long.

Video: Shea Weber on the Canadiens making small changes

"It was fun. It's good for the fans. It's a chance for us to thank them. They're so loyal and they really make a difference during games - and even when it comes to practice - they give us that extra shot of adrenaline," said Danault.

Carey Price was given a therapy day and didn't skate on Sunday. Quebec native Raphaël Girard was between the pipes in Price's absence. A member of the North American Hockey League's Jonquiere Marquis, Girard also took part in a Canadiens practice session last month in Brossard.

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