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Canadiens rookies Price, Chipchura patiently wait for first NHL game @NHL

TORONTO - Kyle Chipchura has travelled on a private jet and seen the Montreal Canadiens logo stitched on his practice jersey, but he still doesn't quite feel like he's made it to the NHL.

"When I get my first game in, I think that's when it's really going to sink in," he said.

The wait continues for Chipchura and teammate Carey Price, who weren't in the Canadiens lineup when they faced the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Coach Guy Carbonneau wants to ease his rookies into action. He didn't think having them play in hockey's oldest rivalry on "Hockey Night in Canada" was conducive to that.

"Playing here is not easy," said Carbonneau. "It's early in the season, they're going to have their chance.

"We'll put them in a situation where they can succeed."

Chipchura and Price have each had their share of success. They both won gold medals with Canada at the world junior championship, were first-round picks of the Canadiens (Chipchura in 2004, Price in 2005) and played on the Hamilton Bulldogs team that won the Calder Cup last spring.

Now they hope to take the next step.

Price was probably the most talked about rookie during the pre-season. The 20-year-old from Williams Lake, B.C., found out he made the team on the eve of the season and is now backing up Christobal Huet.

It might be another week or more until he gets a start because the Canadiens schedule is fairly spread out at the start of the season.

"I'm excited to get going and looking forward to my first game," said Price. "I am just going to have to play my part. Whenever they call for me, I'm going to do my job."

That's basically the message Carbonneau gave Chipchura a few nights ago in Carolina when he told the 21-year-old that he would be watching the opening game from the press box.

Chipchura has been thinking about getting to this point since he was a young boy in Vimy, Alta.

"I'm definitely anxious," he said. "It's what I've been dreaming about my whole life. I can't wait to get in there, but I've got to be patient and stay ready each day."

Carbonneau has an idea of when he'll get the younger players involved, but knows that it could change depending on how the season unfolds.

"I think you try to have a plan long-term," said Carbonneau, in his second year as Habs coach. "You do have to adjust along the way. Obviously, it depends on the other guys too and how they play."

Guillame Latendresse cracked the Montreal lineup as a teenager last year and said it took an entire season for him to start feeling completely comfortable.

That much is evident when you walk in an NHL dressing room. The rookies can often be found seated in the corner not saying much.

Or in the case of Chipchura and Price, you can't get them off the ice. Montreal had an unusually long practice on Friday afternoon and those guys were among a handful of players to keep skating even after it ended.

They want to be ready when their big moment finally comes.

"As a young guy coming into the league, it's not just going to be handed to you," said Chipchura. "You've got to earn it.

"If I just keep working hard, I'll get my chance."

And once he does?

"That's definitely where the tough work begins."

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