EDMONTON – The Habs want nothing more than to help Peter Budaj earn his third win of the season on Thursday night.
Peter Budaj has spent the majority of 2011-12 taking in games from the bench in his Habs baseball cap. Having watched the 29-year-old netminder patiently waiting in the wings for his turn between the pipes, Budaj’s teammates are prepared to do whatever it takes to turn his 10th start of the season into a win.
“We definitely want to make sure that we’re at our best in front of him because as players we know it’s not easy to not play and then come in and be expected to be at your best,” confirmed Josh Gorges of the team’s No.2 goaltender, who will be getting his first start since suffering a 4-2 loss to the Panthers on Feb. 26. “We want to make sure we play strong in front of him.”
For Gorges, that will likely result in a few new bruises to help the cause, ready to add to his team-high 189 blocked shots this season.
“That’s something that whether he’s in the net or Carey is in the net we have to be better at anyway – protecting the front of our net and being a little stronger clearing out those second and third opportunities,” explained the 27-year-old blue-liner. “Buds is a talented goalie and we have all the faith in the world that he’ll come in and have a good game and win one for us.”
Based on his track record against the Oilers so far in his career, there’s a good chance Budaj could be leaving Rexall Place with another two points. In 23 career games against Edmonton, the Slovak netminder has registered 13 wins – the most he’s recorded against any NHL team to date.
Having gone up to 10 games between starts at times this year, staying sharp hasn’t always been easy for the backup goalie. But his willingness to push himself – while also pushing All-Star netminder Carey Price during practice – hasn’t gone unnoticed by the 20 other players in the Habs dressing room.
“He’s probably the hardest working guy on the team,” stressed Gorges. “He’ll stay on the ice after practice to work and he’s always in the gym working on his conditioning and staying game-ready. He never stops working.
“Something that separates Buds from a lot of the other backup goalies I’ve seen is his ability to stay patient, stay calm and keep working even if not playing much isn’t exactly what he wants,” he added. “We’ll be ready to play for him tonight.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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