MONTREAL – In hockey, injuries to some mean opportunities for others.
After being called up from the Bulldogs late Wednesday night following an injury to Alexei Emelin, Jarred Tinordi became the latest of a slew of players recently promoted to the big club. The 22-year-old blue-liner landed in familiar territory in the Habs dressing room, joining 2014-15 Bulldogs teammates Christian Thomas, Jacob De La Rose and Greg Pateryn, who have been in Montreal since January 25, February 5 and February 15, respectively.
Icing a defensive corps consisting of four players aged 25 or younger, Michel Therrien has been using the recent injuries to Emelin and veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar to evaluate the future of the team’s blue line brigade.
“We’re giving our young players an opportunity to play NHL games to see how they’re progressing,” explained the Habs bench boss, who was also without the services of Alex Galchenyuk for the night. “Tinordi is a physical player and he did what he has to do. Pateryn also played a good game tonight. Don’t forget we also have another young defenseman in the lineup in Nathan Beaulieu. We have a very young blue line, but we didn’t give up many scoring chances.
“We’ve been saying for a long time that we’re a young team. We’re in transition,” added Therrien. “The kids on our team worked extremely hard. They surely deserved better results.”
A veteran leader despite being just 25 years old, alternate captain P.K. Subban led the way yet again for the Habs, playing a team-high 30:28 in the shootout loss to the Panthers despite playing on a banged up foot. Already in his fifth full NHL season, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner knows better than most that when it comes to being an impact player, age really is just a number.
“Obviously we’d like to have [Gonchar and Emelin] in the lineup, but I thought guys like Tinordi and Pateryn and especially Nate – he’s been playing so well of late – stepped up their games and they contributed,” praised Subban, who had an assist on Brendan Gallagher’s opening goal. “I don’t know what the minutes were for each guy, but I’m sure they were up there again tonight. For those guys who aren’t used to playing in the NHL to be playing those types of minutes and for us to get a point out of this game is big. I don’t have to look at the game tape to know they did a good job today.”
Having spent just eight games as a Bulldog this season, Beaulieu appears to be in Montreal for the long haul, despite still calling a hotel home. Playing with poise beyond his years, the budding blue-liner looked comfortable with his increased workload, firing four shots on net in his career-high 25:10 against the Panthers after playing 24:00 against Ottawa on Wednesday night.
While he’s still working on cementing his own status as a full-timer with the Habs, he was also impressed with what he saw from his recently-recalled blue line buddies.
“I think both of them did a really good job. First off, it’s not easy to jump into a game like that with a lot of emotions. We really wanted a big win tonight. Jumping in and playing good solid minutes, I think they did a really good job,” shared Beaulieu, who also watched Tinordi drop the gloves for the first time since suffering a concussion in an AHL fight on January 10.
“I think he showed a lot of character jumping right in there without any hesitation and sticking up for himself,” he said. “It’s never easy when you go down. Getting back up is a tough thing, especially during your first game back.”
On the scoresheet, the Habs were led by another ‘90s baby, as 22-year-old Gallagher picked up his 100th
career NHL points off a pair of goals against the Panthers. With Gallagher potting goals from the blue paint, Subban playing monster minutes, Carey Price making big saves between the pipes and a handful of rookies growing together on the back end, Thursday’s game was a crystal ball moment for fans hoping to get a glimpse at the future of the club.
“We had six rookies in the lineup and I think all of them did a great job,” praised Gallagher, who signed a six-year extension with the Habs this fall. “They stood up, they were confident in their play and they did exactly what we asked them to do. It’s cool to see those guys coming up who are going to be a big part of this team going forward and it was nice to see them get the opportunity and step up tonight.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOHighlightsBoxscoreThe Numbers Game: February 19, 2015
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