BROSSARD – Montreal has proven to be worth the wait for the latest crop of Habs newcomers.
Exactly seven days after being acquired at the NHL trade deadline by general manager Marc Bergevin in exchange for draft picks, Jeff Petry, Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell finally learned why the city has a reputation for doing things differently.
After getting a full week to impress their new teammates and head coach on the west coast, on Monday it was the 105-year-old organization’s turn to make the latest honorary Montrealers feel right at home.
“I feel good. The practice was unbelievable. I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I think it was a good preparation for Tuesday’s game,” dished former Oilers defenseman Petry after jumping onto the ice at practice for the first time in front of a jam-packed Bell Sports Complex crowd.
While the practices may indeed be routinely more populous in Brossard than what the 27-year-old rearguard had become used to over close to five seasons in Edmonton -- even on a weekday afternoon -- that wasn’t the only dramatic change awaiting Petry in his new adopted hometown.
“It’s night and day. It’s unbelievable [to join a team that's battling for first place]. It’s a great atmosphere to be around and all the guys have been more than welcoming to me,” continued the six-foot-three, 198-pound blue liner, who jumped from 29th place league-wide with the Oilers to second-overall with the Habs early last Monday morning. “To jump right in on the road trip was also a big help for me to get to know everyone.”
The feeling was mutual for another new teammate who made his own 29-spot jump a week ago.
“This place is probably the best in the league. Everything is first class, everything on the road was first class, all the staff, the way they treat you… You couldn’t really ask for more,” added former Sabres forward Flynn, who registered five shots on goal against the Coyotes on Saturday with just a single full practice under his belt. “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable. We were a little out of sync in California but I thought our line was solid in Arizona. We were already starting to do the things we needed to help the team be successful. A couple more practices will help, but I’m already more comfortable with how this team plays hockey.”
Coming off a string of four tough western tilts in which the Habs picked up three of a possible eight points, Flynn is nevertheless aware that things won’t get any easier in Montreal despite the honeymoon atmosphere.
“I’m excited [for Tuesday]. It’s a big game – the guys on the coaching staff have even called it the biggest game of the year for us so far,” admitted the Lynnfield, MA native who has been playing on a line with former Sabres teammate Mitchell and Brandon Prust since Wednesday. “Tampa’s right on our heels, so we’re just focused on that and doing everything we can to get two points tomorrow.”
While Petry, Flynn and Mitchell have already played a combined 14 games at the Bell Centre with the visiting side over the course of their careers, there’s no questioning that Tuesday’s homecoming will be extra special for the latter.
“It’s going to be emotional. This is the team I grew up cheering for. I’m excited to finally be playing at home,” explained the 30-year-old forward, a native of nearby Greenfield Park, QC. “I’m going to have a lot of friends and family in the crowd. The adrenaline will be pumping, that’s for sure. Wearing this sweater on the road has already been special, but playing in front of the fans at the Bell Centre will be different. It’s going to mean a lot for me.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
From the room
Rewarded for his efforts
The Numbers Game: March 7, 2015
Two good men
Fighting to the finish