BROSSARD – Coming off an injury-riddled campaign, Brandon Prust is eager to contribute to the Canadiens’ cause in a big way in 2014-15.
Fully recovered from a torn oblique muscle that plagued him during the latter stages of the regular season last year, the 30-year-old left-winger insists getting back on track in short order is a top priority, as is staying healthy and chipping in wherever and whenever possible to give Michel Therrien’s troops a boost at both ends of the rink.
“I definitely want to keep building. Last year was tough with injuries. I want to try and stay injury-free. Stuff happens, though. Some things you can’t control, but I want to get back to getting more ice time and being a bigger factor out there. I want to play well defensively, and get back to my game, the style that I've played for many years and for lots of different teams,” stressed Prust, who registered six goals and 13 points in 52 regular season games in 2013-14, before racking up 2 assists in 13 postseason tilts. “Last year, I felt like I kind of got it going, then I got injured, then I got it back and got injured again. It was tough. I want to try and put in a full year, get my confidence going right away and start helping this team.”
Based on Prust’s play thus far in training camp, it’s safe to say he’s on the right track. The London, ON native has made his presence felt in the intra-squad scrimmages at the Bell Sports Complex alongside linemates Dale Weise and Manny Malhotra. Their chemistry was noticeable again on Sunday, as Habs regulars, among others, contested their third scrimmage in as many days.
“It’s a good line. We’ve been feeling it the last couple of days. We’ve been skating well and moving the puck around and getting some scoring chances and opportunities. We kind of have good chemistry right now, and we’re working hard and finding each other out there. It’s good,” offered the seven-year NHL veteran, who led the Canadiens with 32 penalty minutes, while registering 35 hits during the playoffs last spring. “Sometimes, you find some guys that you have better chemistry with. You know each other’s instincts. You know where they’re going to be. Even if you don’t see them, you know they’re going to be there. It’s good that way.”
Prust’s return to form has quickly caught the eye of the Canadiens’ bench boss, who is pleased to see the former third-round selection primed to be an impact player come the start of the season on October 8th.
“Up until now, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen. Brandon’s got a lot of jump in his play. That’s something he lost at the end of last year. He’s the type of player who needs a lot of jump in his game to be effective, but injuries hurt him in that department. The good news is that his first appearances have demonstrated that he’s got that jump back,” praised Therrien. “Last season, Brandon wasn’t able to stand out. But, he’s a warrior. He arrived at training camp in great shape. We all remember the contributions he made to this team when we brought him on board. We could put him on any line, a lot like Brendan Gallagher, and he would just get every player going. He’s come to camp with a terrific attitude.”
Now, Prust is just counting down the days until he can test himself against players wearing something other than a CH on their chests, while dishing out some hurt along the way.
“I think everybody’s eager to get going. These practices and scrimmages are good to get your legs going and get the feel for the game and the puck, and get your timing back, too. But, it’s fun to play hockey where you kind of hate the other guys,” confided Prust, who shouldn’t have a problem “hating” the opposition if he suits up for the Canadiens’ first preseason game on Tuesday night against the archrival Boston Bruins in Montreal. “You get physical out there and crash and bang. I think everybody kind of misses that part a little bit. There’s been some good crashing and banging out there, but it’s something that we really want to inflict on other people.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO Training Camp - Day 4Familiar faces Keep on truckin' Job seekers