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Youth movement

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

QUEBEC CITY -- There's no question the future is bright for hockey in the Quebec capital.

The passion for puck in the province is never as obvious as it is when 15,074 loud and proud Canadiens, Avalanche (and Nordiques) fans pack a sold out Colisée Pepsi for an exhibition contest on a Friday night. But the future may be even brighter in Quebec's hockey capital, as a determined group of Habs youngsters pulled out a win against a stacked Avalanche roster to keep the team's perfect preseason record in tact, impressing their head coach in the process.

“The young guys were rewarded for their work ethic tonight,” said Michel Therrien after his team battled back from a pair of one-goal deficits to finally top the Avs by a score of 3-2 in the former home of the Nordiques. “They competed and that’s what I’m taking away from this game. Obviously looking at both lineups, [the Avalanche] had a lot of talent on their side, but we had a group that fought really hard.”

No one expected it to be easy for a Habs team that counted an average of 111 career NHL games played apiece – or 12.6 if veterans Brandon Prust, Francis Bouillon, David Desharnais, and Tom Gilbert are removed from the mix – which made the win that much sweeter.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to play against these guys, especially when you’re so young. You can see how far you’ve come [as a player],” confirmed Sven Andrighetto, who fired a bullet from the blue line late in the first to knot things up at one.

“It was a fun game for us to play. We were a pretty young team with a lot of young guys while they [had most] of their top guys out there,” added the Swiss forward of the extra motivation he and linemates Jiri Sekac and Jacob De La Rose were able to find with the odds stacked against them. “The three of us are really young, so we’re hungry and we complete each other well. They’re two great players, and it’s fun to play with both of them.”

Just like the rookie center – who accounted for six of the Canadiens’ 25 total shots on the night  – netminder Dustin Tokarski was also proud of the work his young teammates put forth in front of him.

“There were a lot of young guys in the lineup, and a couple were playing in their first exhibition game, so it was awesome to see. It shows the depth of this organization and [promises] a lot of good stuff moving forward,” noted the 25-year-old goaltender, who turned aside 27 of 29 shots fired his way in his first full outing of the preseason. “It was a gutsy effort tonight. It was a good team on the other end but our guys brought their A-games tonight and it was fun to get the win.”

Another player who made his mark at the Colisée, while continuing to showcase his ability to transition to hockey on this side of the Atlantic was rising Czech star Sekac, who scored the Habs’ second game-tying goal of the evening.

“’I felt really good out there. I’m getting better every game and I’m getting used to the North American style of play,” insisted the former KHL pro, whose goal was also his second in as many outings with the Habs since the start of training camp. “It was a great win for us, because we had a really young lineup. It was great to see that we could compete with [Colorado’s veteran] guys. We worked hard and that’s why we won. It’s still just a preseason game. I'd bet regular season games are on a higher level than this one, but it’s definitely a great feeling to beat what was almost a full NHL team."

Despite twice having to climb out of a one-goal hole against a veteran lineup on road ice, Andrighetto insists Friday’s result was never in doubt.

“You start at 0-0, there are two teams, and 60 minutes to play. Anyone can win.”

Steven Nechay is a writer for

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