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The final stretch

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – With training camp winding down and the regular season just around the corner, there are a few Habs doing everything in their power to make sure the plane they board next week lands in Toronto, not Hamilton.

Head coach Jacques Martin has to whittle his roster down before opening night on October 7 and he knows the decision won’t be an easy one. While he’s been impressed with the play of some of the youngsters trying to crack the lineup, his final choice won’t only be about Xs and Os.

“Contracts are one factor you have to consider, but you also have to consider if that player [getting sent down] would be open to be picked up on waivers. You have to balance that,” explained Martin. “Part of that is sometimes you also have to balance character versus talent when you’re looking at, say, your 13th or 14th forward. Quite often, I believe character will override talent. It’s the attitude of the individual and what are the other things that he brings. Those values come into play.”

One of those gritty players who’s been hard at work making Martin’s final call a tough one, Ryan White has clearly caught his coach’s eye with two goals, one assist, two fights and a plus-3 rating in four preseason games. Even if the 22-year-old isn’t in the lineup against the Leafs to start the season, he’s still hoping to spend more time in Montreal than ever this year.

“It's really exciting to still be here and continue to be given a shot. All any guy like me wants is a chance to show what we can do,” admitted White. “I worked hard this summer, did everything I was told to do and it's paying off. It's all about keeping this thing going and giving it all I've got. I guess we'll see what happens but it's been a lot of fun and I can really get used to this."

With Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik currently shelved with injuries, Gatineau native Alexandre Picard isn’t letting his opportunity to earn a more permanent spot in the roster pass him by.

“Obviously I want to be in the lineup and have another chance to prove what I can do,” described the 25-year-old defenseman. “I’m more mature now and I’m really focusing on my own game. I’m not worried about what everyone else is doing.”

Despite entering his fourth season with the big club, bruising blue-liner Ryan O’Byrne won’t be taking Saturday’s final preseason game to rest up for opening night.

“I didn’t come into camp with the idea that my spot is safe,” explained O’Byrne. “Even though I was in the lineup for most of last season, I was also out of the lineup at times. I’m not taking anything for granted.” 

While some players will be using Saturday’s game against the Islanders to earn their spots, Michael Cammalleri and his linemates will look to continue building on the chemistry they established last year. But after seeing Tomas Plekanec tear it up in the preseason with four goals already, the 28-year-old sniper wouldn’t mind waiting one more game to really hit his stride. 

“He should slow down,” joked Cammalleri of the Czech center’s torrid scoring pace. “In preseason you want to avoid two things: leaving the preseason scoreless and leading your team in scoring. You don’t want to be at either end of the ladder.

“I’m happy to be back with Pleky and Andrei,” he continued. “We’re more and more familiar with each other and we can’t wait for the regular season to start.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for

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