BROSSARD – With the Winnipeg win under their belt, the Habs are back in Montreal looking to give the Bell Centre crowd a memorable first home game of 2011-12.
Not yet having started a season in their own building this millennium, finally getting to play that first home game of the year is always a meaningful occasion for any Canadiens player.
“I still get goosebumps when Michel Lacroix announces, 'Accueillons nos Canadiens
',” grinned Bell Centre veteran, Mathieu Darche
. “All our fans tonight are going to be excited for the first home game of the season. We obviously are too, but it’s up to us control that emotion and make sure we don’t get carried away by it.”
A few stalls down, P.K. Subban was echoing his teammate’s sentiments, expressing that while some teams get to enjoy that kind of crowd energy mainly for home openers, in Montreal, it’s a year-round experience.
|The Bell Centre crowd welcomes the Canadiens |
“You can never really get used to it. That’s the advantage of playing for the Montreal Canadiens; you play forty-something games at home and the atmosphere always gives you an edge,” explained Subban, who also skated in the Habs’ 2010-11 home opener. “Other teams enjoy it too, but they know coming here that we’re probably going to be playing at our best, because that’s what this fan base brings to our game.”
While a handful of Habs in tonight’s lineup are gearing up for their first official game on Bell Centre ice, they’ll lace up with the advantage of already having played in two other match-ups this season, something Raphael Diaz pointed out should work to their favor.
“Both experiences will help me tonight. There was a huge crowd in Toronto and in Winnipeg the crowd was even louder. I’ve been told the crowd at the Bell Centre tonight will probably be the loudest yet,” said Diaz.
“I’ve been part of some big international tournaments and played in the Olympics in the past, so I think that will help with this type of game,” added Diaz. “The trick for me is to make sure I prepare the same way as I would in any other game and stick to all the same habits and rituals.”
The team’s veterans may have given the rookies an idea of what kind of atmosphere to expect Thursday night, but as Josh Gorges who will be playing in his fourth Bell Centre home opener pointed out, it’s no substitute for the real thing.
“They got a little taste of what’s in store during the preseason games, but when you get to the regular season, the intensity goes up a notch. Over the course of the season, that level of intensity just keeps climbing,” explained Gorges, who also believes the experiences of kicking of the Leafs’ and Jets’ seasons will be a big help for the rookies. “I’m sure it was good for some of the younger guys to experience a few home openers on the road and it should hopefully help them to transition into tonight’s game without being too nervous.”
Pacioretty – Gomez – Gionta
Moen – Plekanec – Cole
Palushaj – Engqvist – Eller
Darche – Desharnais – Kostitsyn
Subban – Gill
Gorges – Diaz
Emelin – Weber
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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