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Cammalleri embracing Montreal, ready to face Flames

by Todd Kimberley

"I made a joke with (Iginla) yesterday. I asked him: 'Do you want to go work on some shooting before practice today?' Because that's what we used to do."
-- Mike Cammalleri

"To you from failing hands," reads the Montreal Canadiens' motto, "we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high."

Michael Cammalleri is carrying that torch with honor and pride.

Cammalleri hails from Toronto, where he grew up rooting for the Maple Leafs, and arrived in La Belle Province thanks to a big-dollar, free-agent contract.

But the high-scoring winger admits the century-old history of Les Glorieux is an awe-insipring force. And he's embracing the tradition.

"It strikes an emotional chord, I guess, playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Such a storied franchise," Cammalleri told on Tuesday morning at the Pengrowth Saddledome, in advance of Tuesday night's meeting between the Habs and his former club, the host Calgary Flames.

"It's funny. You come back to Calgary, and it's such a rich tradition here in Calgary, and yet this morning I saw that it was (the Flames') 30th anniversary (in Calgary). We're doing our 100th in Montreal. That just magnifies it right there."

Cammalleri noted recently that Yvon (The Roadrunner) Cournoyer's picture hangs over his locker-room stall at Montreal's Bell Centre, while a likeness of Jean (Le Gros Bill) Beliveau hangs above his dressing stall at the Habs' practice rink in Brossard, Que.

"These are names that are institutions. Names you've heard your whole life, reading about, hearing stories about," said Cammalleri. "And they've all worn this jersey. It's pretty cool."

Cammalleri, 27, joined the Flying Frenchmen on July 1 by signing a six-year, $30 million deal. As Jarome Iginla's setup man last winter in Calgary, he scored a career-high 39 goals, but with several other players already tied up thanks to long-term deals, the Flames simply didn't have the dollars to keep him in harness.

Of course, Cammalleri was still looking for a big night Tuesday against his old mates in a battle of early-season undefeated clubs. Both entered 2-0-0.

"I made a joke with (Iginla) yesterday. I asked him: 'Do you want to go work on some shooting before practice today?' Because that's what we used to do," said Cammalleri with a laugh.

"When he's out there and has the puck, I'm going to call out, 'Hey! Hey! Hey! I'm open!' and see if he slides one to me."

Offered ex-teammate Craig Conroy of the Flames: "We want him to go out there and have a great year, and we like him, but when we get out there, it's going to be serious business. We know he wants to score a goal, and score a lot of goals. We're going to do our best to shut him down."

At 5-foot-9, Cammalleri has been answering questions about his height for his entire NHL career, which stretches back to the 2002-03 campaign with the Los Angeles Kings.

Only two games into the 2009-10 season, Cammalleri notes that sort of talk has hit somewhat of a fever pitch in Montreal this fall, given that the other two offensive specialists imported by the Habs for this campaign — 5-foot-11 Scott Gomez, and 5-foot-7 Brian Gionta — are also on the small side.

"I've heard it a lot. It's a question I've answered many times. Yeah, it is tiring, giving the same answer over and over," he said. "But we like our level of compete.

"Through the history of the game, you've seen shorter players have success. Size can be measured in a lot of different ways, and not always by feet and inches."

NOTES: Montreal coach Jacques Martin said Tuesday morning that D Ryan O'Byrne will be out eight weeks with a knee injury incurred Saturday in Buffalo. Fellow D Andrei Markov is already out four months after tendons in his left leg were sliced by a skate blade during the Habs' season opener. That leaves the rest of the Montreal defense corps, Jaroslav Spacek, Roman Hamrlik, Paul Mara, Josh Gorges, Hal Gill and AHL call-up Yannick Weber, with large skates to fill. "It's a matter of doing the job as a group," said Martin. "I feel we have some good depth. We have some good people there. I feel we have three pairs that can do the job." ...Montreal C Glen Metropolit is day-to-day with a rib injury and is unlikely to face the Flames, said Martin.

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