BROSSARD – While the Canadiens skaters who took part in Wednesday’s match against Ottawa had the day off, the core group of veterans who watched from the sidelines took to the ice on Thursday morning at the Bell Sports Complex for a light workout.
The Habs will conclude a home-and-home against the Senators at the Bell Centre to close out their preseason schedule.
One welcomed presence on the ice was that of defenseman Douglas Murray, who practiced with his teammates for the first time since suffering a mild lower-body injury during his first preseason game against the Bruins nearly two weeks ago.
“It was my first time practicing with the guys in about nine or ten days. It’s just a pre-game skate, but I think it went well. Skating with the team is a big step toward getting back,” mentioned the 6-foot-3 rearguard, who hails from Bromma, Sweden.
“It would have been great to get some exhibition games under my belt, but obviously that didn’t happen, so I will try to prepare myself for opening night. I’m here for long days, as far as the rehab goes. It’s very tough to simulate game situations when you practice, which is why it’s tough to miss preseason games,” he added.
Despite the early season setback, Murray looked visibly happy to be back in the swing of things, and expressed confidence in his ability to help the team come October 1st.
“You’re going to have to ask the coach [to know if I’ll play the season opener], but I believe I will be ready and available,” stated Murray.
One player who is a step ahead of the hulking blue-liner in terms of recovery is team captain Brian Gionta, who will make his much-anticipated preseason debut against Ottawa.
Having participated in on-ice drills with teammates for much of the past week, the speedy winger from Rochester, NY seemed to be rounding into form. At practice, he used his shot with confidence off the rush and beat Peter Budaj with a precise one-timer on an especially memorable occasion.
“You want to find your timing as soon as possible. Normally, that’s what preseason games are for. However, last year this wasn’t the case and everyone got into it right away. It’ll be the same for me this year,” acknowledged Gionta, who will most likely suit up alongside his usual linemates, Rene Bourque and Tomas Plekanec.
While the Habs veterans will be facing a young and inexperienced Senators lineup composed primarily of prospects and AHLers, Daniel Briere knows not to take the opposition lightly.
“There is not a huge difference in levels between NHL players and AHL players. You can’t get into a game thinking it will be easy. We saw it against the Senators on Wednesday night. We had a young team, but they didn’t take us lightly and it showed on the scoreboard,” observed the 16-year NHL veteran.
“For us, the important thing isn’t the final score. It’s the last stretch before the start of the season and we still need to perfect the system, the special teams and work on the details which we haven’t sorted out until now. We’ll need to tighten the screws a bit,” concluded Briere.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO RAW: Brian GiontaTwo minutes to midnight